Rediscovering Adventure as a Father – Leo Houlding

We all know Leo Houlding as the face of British adventure today – tackling some of the largest and most extreme big walls on the planet.

With Father’s day approaching he took time to sit down and reflect on what becoming a father means to himself and his relationship with adventure.

Over to you Leo…

To me, over the years adventure has come to mean increasingly serious undertakings, with an extremely high level of commitment that require a great deal of skill and experience. That is still true, and my next big mission later this year very much fits that description (watch this space, The Spectre Expedition coming soon…)

However just under four years ago I rediscovered the joy of much simpler, safer and altogether smaller adventures thanks to the birth of my daughter Freya. And eight months ago she was joined by a little brother, Jackson.

Undoubtedly becoming a father has changed my attitude towards adventure along with everything else in life. Aptly named ‘dependants’ tend to do that. I’ll save the deep debate about risk and responsibility for a heavier essay.

Climbing El Cap or snow-kiting across Greenland are not really suitable outings for my little ones just yet but I am very keen to encourage them to see everyday as an adventure and to nurture the desire to explore this amazing planet and enjoy the wondrous playground that Mother Nature has provided.

Freya (3 years, 9 months) avoiding the crocodiles during rope traverse training on the garden obstacle course

It is deeply refreshing to marvel once again at the simple wonders of the world, puddle jumping or balancing on hand rails, skimming stones and making mud pies. Sleeping in a tent, even in the garden is as good as a polar crossing for Freya and squirrelling around the forest as good as a new route on an unclimbed Tepuy, deep in the Amazon.

Though I don’t want to force them to become climbers (and would probably prefer them not to do some of the more hazardous pursuits that Dad has practiced over the years) I certainly want to equip them with the skills to be able to safely get out into the wildest corners of Earth and the motivation to be willing to put in effort to get there.

Jackson Houlding (7 months) enjoying his assisted balance training with Dad. He’s very good at it!

Confidence, concentration and competence are qualities I feel to be very important in life and outdoor adventure is a great way of teaching them to children.

Living in the Lake District is a blessing with nature and adventure on the door step in abundance. Right now with my wife Jessica, who is on maternity leave, we are enjoying a family road trip around the Pacific North West of the USA. Currently we are in the magnificent rainforest of the Olympic National Park.

In the USA, much like at home in the UK if you are willing to walk for 20 minutes from the car the crowds quickly disperse and you get a real taste of wilderness.

OK so museums aren’t really adventure, but this is a Bluebird SR-71, the fastest plane ever made as you can see Daddy was more excited than Jackson about this!

The big rivers, big walls and big treks will have to wait for another year. This time we’ll be content with the smaller adventures offered by Americas great parks, gentle strolls through the ancient forests, bike rides in the tandem trailer and a bit of flat water paddling on the warmer days.

It’s quite a contrast to some of my earlier extreme adventure US excursions but at least as much fun seeing the wonder through little people’s eyes. And in truth, I’ll actually be staying over here a bit longer to play some big boys games in the Bugaboos. The passion is the same, just the scale is different.

Until next time,
Leo