Leo Houlding and the East Face of Mount Asgard

This summer, climber and adventurer Leo Houlding, along with his two climbing partners, Wilson Cutbirth and Waldo Etherington, returned to Mount Asgard on Baffin Island.

On August 13, we reported that the trio had been unlucky with the weather and that Houlding’s expedition had ended unsuccessfully after 34 days. We based our news on Houlding’s first posts after his expedition. But we were wrong. Houlding got in touch and informed us that for the last two days of the expedition when the weather finally stabilized, they made some interesting climbs.

Mount Asgard

Mount Asgard.


The east face

Though they could not carry out their original plan on the north face of Mount Asgard because of bad weather, they had a new idea. “The massive north tower of Asgard only revealed itself through the clag a handful of times while we festered beneath in the tent. As precious time slipped by, our ambitions for the north wall were turned to the more approachable but even taller, 1,220m east face,” Houlding said.

Climbing on Mount Asgard.

Climbing on Mount Asgard. The weather was awful this summer. Photo: Leo Houlding


Their attention focused on a hard-looking line directly up the center of the lower east buttress. “In between rain showers and snow flurries, on the rare occasions when the rock dried, we snatched brief chances, barely a pitch each try,” he said.

Their line is “Loki’s Mischief,” Mount Asgard, Baffin Island, Arctic Canada, 5.11+, R (E5 6b)/A3 (TR 5.13-, E7 6c), 1,372m. The line has 29 pitches and 12 of them are new.

“More rotten weather drenched our dreams,” recalled Houlding. “All flights to Pang were canceled and the Park was closed due to dangerously flooded rivers. At last, Loki, the Norse god of mischief relented, and summer arrived the day before we had to leave. I took the lead up brilliant untouched stone above, while Wilson [Cutbirth] flashed Waldo’s [Etherington] A3 on top rope (E7, 6c / 5.13-), but there was no time for the send.”

A brief window

In the time they had, the trio opened 12 new pitches, “around 457m of virgin terrain to a spectacular bivy above a sea of cloud,” Houlding wrote.

Then, after a few hours of sleep, they joined the great Doug Scott’s classic 1973 route that takes the path of least resistance up the endless headwall, abandoning their kit to move fast.

Leo Houlding on the climb.

Photo from the climb. Photo: Leo Houlding


Houlding, Cutbirth, and Etherington summited under the midnight sun, “euphoric…but accepting defeat.” They descended their route in 20 rappels to collect their gear, reaching the ground in a 48-hour trip. “You get what you give, and we gave it our all,” wrote Houlding.

Against all odds, Houlding always manages to make an expedition interesting.

Kris Annapurna

KrisAnnapurna is a writer with ExplorersWeb.

Kris has been writing about history and tales in alpinism, news, mountaineering, and news updates in the Himalaya, Karakoram, etc., for the past year with ExplorersWeb. Prior to that, Kris worked as a real estate agent, interpreter, and translator in criminal law. Now based in Madrid, Spain, she was born and raised in Hungary.