One month ago, Leo Houlding and a small team left for a remote part of Greenland’s Renland to attempt a new wall.

The Mirror Wall, which faces northwest, was first explored in 2012 by a Swiss Team that established two routes, one on either side of the main face. Visit the American Alpine Journal‘s 2013 article about the expedition here.

On July 27, Leo Houlding, joined by South African climber Joe Möhle, Matt Pickles from Todmorden, Matt Pycroft from Sheffield and Waldo Ehterington from Dorset, reported to the Berghaus headquarters after nearly one-week without communication:

“We nailed it! The team has successfully climbed the Mirror Wall by the main face and descended safely. Such a huge wall – taller than El Cap – and so blank and smooth that you can almost see your reflection. Strategically simple, tactically highly complex – the month long process of gazing deep into the mirror looking for a way to the top is over and we found it.

The Mirror Wall in Renland on Greenland.  Source Berghaus
The Mirror Wall in Greenland. Source Berghaus

“We are back in base camp. The crew, little experienced in this game, have all excelled and not just survived, but thrived on the challenge. It has been a privilege to run wild with these strong guys out here in this grown up playground.

“We topped out in an upwards snow storm, having spent 12 nights on the face. All we need now is for a fine day tomorrow for the helicopter pick up. It will be my 35th birthday and our home-bound extraction will be the best present ever.

“I am ready for home. Ready to see my wife Jess and daughter Freya, ready for comfort and convenience, safety and security. I look forward to sharing all this wonder with Freya, teaching her what I have learned and showing her these magical places.”

The fate of the expedition was up in the air as Houlding had last reported that he felt different on an unknown big wall since becoming a father, “I’m definitely more risk averse – I’m extremely conscious all the time about the countless hazards my friends and I are facing, with more thought for potential consequences of things going wrong.”

The Mirror Wall in Renland on Baffin Island compared to man-made buildings.
The Mirror Wall in Renland on Baffin Island compared to man-made buildings. Source Berghaus

The expedition took months to plan and supplies were shipped to Iceland, flown to Greenland and then snowmobiled to a hunting outpost in Scoresby Sund Fjord in May, before seasonal ice break up.

Leo Houlding commented before the trip, “There are precious few cliffs in the world that exceed 1,000 metres in vertical height, but right in front of us, in this little explored corner of Greenland, lies one such beauty.

“The Mirror Wall is immaculate, a beautiful tombstone of glass smooth granite, taller than El Capitan’s Dawn Wall and set in this pristine but harsh Arctic wilderness.”

Leo leading the Paper Flake, 15 metres high, five metres wide and one-centimetre thick. Photo Matt Pycroft / Coldhouse Collective
Houlding leading the Paper Flake, 15 metres high, five metres wide and one-centimetre thick. Photo Matt Pycroft / Coldhouse Collective

Upon reaching the Edward Bailey Glacier on June 25, established a base camp and then an advance base camp at the base of the Mirror Wall.

Three of the climbers got very ill, which slowed progress. After the team spotted a line and established their Bedouin Camp, a hanging port-a-ledge camp, they had a few set backs, from falls to difficult route finding.

Early during the climb, Houlding led the thin Paper Flake and later wrote, “It is complex terrain, but gladly there are some discontinuous features.  After probing uselessly at one corner, I turned my attention to the terrifyingly thin Paper Flake, a 15metre high, five-metre wide and at its thinnest, only one-centimetre thick.”

For a collection of notes from Houlding and more on the climb, visit Berghaus.com.

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