Houlding & Stanhope link-up the Howsers

British climber Leo Houlding and Canadian Will Stanhope have made the first one-day link-up of the west faces of the Howser Towers in British Columbia, Canada. In late August, Stanhope and Houlding started just after dawn on the Central Tower, on the 500m route Chocolate Fudge Brownie 5.12+ (E6), simul climbing at first before pitching the upper crux and finger cracks. Descending their fixed ropes (used working the route in preparation for their link-up) they then climbed All Along the Watch Tower, 5.12+ (E5/6), regarded as one of Canada’s classic test pieces, via a direct start up Spicy Red Beans and Rice. A 1000m route in it’s own right the climb finishes on a long, complex ridge that often leads parties to be benighted. However, armed with the knowledge of a previous ascent a week earlier, Stanhope and Houlding dispatched the ridge in an hour, reaching the summit at 10:00pm.

Their final route was the world classic Becky/Chouinard route on the South Tower 5.10s (E2s), they simul-climbed the whole 600m route in three blocks, reaching the third and final summit with just 30 minutes to spare at 6:30am on 30 August.

The Bugaboos has long been a location for big link-ups and among the small but dedicated crew of local hardcore climbers, the idea of linking the three tallest, most impressive features has been a coveted prize for years. Will Stanhope had been contemplating it since 2009, after completing the first free ascent of the west face of the central tower. Stanhope and Houlding know each other well with Houlding commenting “Climbing like that over such distance with a partner like Will was a joy. Although it was a serious challenge with its fair share of hardship, it was nothing but fun. He’s super solid, safe, speedy and one of the best crack climbers in the world.”

During the trip, the team, which included Adrian Samara of Coldhouse Collective, shot a virtual reality film on the Becky/Chouinard route on South Tower, as well as a short regular film about the link-up while training and practicing on the climbs. Both films are in post-production.

Leo Houlding is now preparing for his next major expedition. In a trip sponsored by Berghaus, Houlding will lead a three-man international team on an ambitious 70-day, 2000km trans-continental journey to climb the 750m south buttress of a peak called the Spectre in the Gothic Mountains, Antarctica.

“Looks like a long way?” Leo, Waldo, WIll and Wilson observe the challenge in the magnificent smoky sunset the night before the BIG day. credit Adrian Samara / Coldhouse Collective / Berghaus

Will and Leo sharing a laugh during VR filming on the Becky / Chouinard. Credit Adrian Samara / Coldhouse Collective / Berghaus

Waldo Etherington, Wilson Cutbirth, Leo Houlding and Will Stanhope below the uber-classic, 600m, Becky / Chouinard on South Tower. The team shot a VR-film on the line described by Leo as “a mind-blowing way to share the experience of one the best 5.10’s (E2’s) in the world. I can’t wait to show my Mum!” Credit Adrian Samara / Coldhouse Collective / Berghaus

Leo on the crux 5.10 (E2) pitch of the uber-classic, 600m, Becky / Chouinard on South Tower. One of the finest routes of its standard in the world. Credit Adrian Samara / Coldhouse Collective / Berghaus


West faces of North, Central and South Howser Towers, Bugaboos, BC, Canada. Credit Marc Piche


Will Stanhope leading the sustained and physical Central tower. The pair simul-climbed the first 200m in one pitch or block.

Will belays Leo across the hardest pitch of the link-up. A delicate 5.12+ (E6) slab traverse linking the starkly contrasting brutal cracks of the steep, 500m Central tower. Credit Adrian Samara, Coldhouse Collective, Berghaus

Waldo in the dawn light of the BC wilderness during a warm up ascent of the Becky / Chouinard. Credit Adrian Samara / Coldhouse Collective / Berghaus

Leo on the incredible 250m crux corner of ‘All along the Watch Tower” on N Tower. The 1000m long climb is a major one-day objective in itself. Credit Waldo Etherington, Berghaus

Will Stanhope pulling through the crux pitch of the amazing All along the Watch Tower.

Will Stanhope, Wilson Cutbirth, Waldo Etherington and Leo Houlding on the top of South Tower. Credit Adrian Samara / Coldhouse Collective / Berghaus




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