Spectre Expedition is GO! My Most Hardcore Trip Ever? – Leo Houlding

2000 km Journey, 750m Wall, 69 Days

Spectre (spɛktə), noun – something widely feared as a possible unpleasant or dangerous occurrence.

Although the dictionary definition of this mountain’s name is somewhat ominous, from the first moment I saw a photo of the Spectre in Damien Gildea’s inspirational book “Mountaineering in Antarctica” it quickly jumped to the top of my most wanted list.

It is fair to say that the Spectre is the most remote mountain on planet Earth. The closest human inhabitance is the American base at South Pole 420kms away and it is more than 1000km away from the closest international airstrip.

It was after my first expedition to Antarctica when we climbed Ulvetanna in 2012 that this crazy idea first started to take a grip of my senses; to combine a long polar journey with a hard, technical climb by utilising the revolutionary polar travel tool of kite power.

Although sails, parachutes and kites have been used for polar travel since the golden age of polar exploration over 100 years ago, in the last 10 years kite, or wing technology has really come of age. There have been some incredible wind powered polar journeys over the last decade and it was these that inspired me to attempt this unique and progressive expedition.

Over the past 5 winters I’ve been immersing myself in the world of polar travel and snow-kiting on Norway’s pretend polar landscape, the Hardangervidda plateau favoured training ground of the golden age pioneers Roald Amundsen & Earnest Shackleton.

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I have learnt much about the specialist techniques involved in moving efficiently and safely across great distances, with massive loads in some of the most inhospitable territory on Earth. Along the way I’ve met and learned from some of the greatest polar travellers of the modern age and discovered a cold and barren world full of stark beauty and harsh joys.

On Nov 7th with my uniquely skilled team mates; Frenchman Jean Burgun & Kiwi Mark Sedon we set out on an extremely ambitious and complex expedition to climb the Spectre, jewel in the crown of the Organ Pipe Peaks in the Gothic Mountains at the Southern end of the Transantarctic Mountains.

The team, from left to right: Jean Burgun, Leo Houlding, Mark Sedon

It involves a 2000km unsupported, trans-Antarctic journey from the Ross to the Ronne ice shelf, 1600km powered by kite, 400km of old school man-hauling, 69-days alone in the deep field and exploration and ascents of the spectacular and uber isolated Gothic Mountains including the magnificent 750m tall South pillar of the Spectre, our primary objective reminiscent of the famed Fitzroy in Patagonia.

We will begin the journey with 200 kgs each packed into massive sledges called pulks containing everything we will need for hard alpine rock climbing, long distance snow-kiting, traditional man-hauling, winter camp life and general survival in one of the worlds most hostile environments, as well as professional film, photography and solar power equipment along with food, fuel and supplies for over two months.

Nobody has ever attempted such a long, multi-disciplined trip before. It is by far the most intimidating and difficult trip I have ever organised and undertaken.

Why? Well, why not? Adventure is a relative term, the more one experiences the further one must go to find it. The Spectre Expedition is the most hardcore adventure I’ve ever dreamed up and although I’m quite terrified by our imminent departure, I can’t wait to begin what will inevitably be the adventure of a lifetime.

The strategy and logistics are complicated and without in-depth knowledge of the nuances of Antarctic wind patterns and aviation protocols may seem somewhat illogical. It has taken me 5 years to raise the finance for this outrageously expensive climbing holiday and to devise a strategy that is realistically achievable with in the constraints of time, energy and cost.

There is a more information about our expedition as well as live tracking and a blog that we’ll be updating daily at www.SpectreExpedition.com

Please do come along for the ride and we’d love you to hear your comments on the site whilst we’re out on ice!

Leo