14.01.13. Trail catches up with UK climbing superstar Leo Houlding live from Antarctica as he prepares to make the final summit push on his epic Ulvetanna expedition.
Before the expedition Leo described Ulvetanna as his �last great climb�, and it�s already shaping up to be the biggest challenge of his glittering career.
Leo and his team are currently trying to pioneer a new route up the mountain�s magnificent north east ridge � and Trail spoke to him via satellite phone from an icy ledge on the stunning Antarctic peak known as the �Wolf�s Tooth�.
Trail: Hi Leo, how�s everything go so far?
Leo: All good thanks. It�s extremely hard work down here but the weather�s good, it�s not super cold and we haven�t faced much wind yet so we�ve been lucky. We�ve had to cover some really long distances to get our gear where we want it and with the constant daylight, dryness and cold, it feels a bit like being at really high altitude. It�s taken us a bit of time to acclimatise but the team is still feeling really strong.
Trail: Are you happy with the progress you�ve made?
Leo: We finally made some real progress yesterday. We had a full 24-hour day hauling gear from advanced base camp and now we�re finally ready to attack the big wall. This really is a massive face and we�re facing a constant threat from the weather so we�ve all got a bit of a case of the heebie jeebies, but we�re amazingly excited and determined to get to the top.
Trail: Is Antarctica everything you hoped it would be?
Leo: This is my first visit to Antarctica and it�s just an amazing place. I�m currently sitting on a ledge staring out across the continent and the views are absolutely mind-blowing. I�ve never seen anything like this before in my life � very few people have. Ulvetanna looks like a huge jagged tooth sticking up out of the snow and it�s truly an awesome sight.
Trail: Was it exciting or daunting to see Ulvetanna for the first time?
Leo: I�d say it was a mixture of both. We�ve been planning this trip for so long and we�re amazingly excited to be here, but it was probably more daunting than exciting when we first saw the wall. We�re still not totally sure of success � this is biggest challenge I�ve ever faced, man. We�ve got 10 days of food and fuel on the wall with us and we�re leaving Antarctica on January 27th, so we know we�re on borrowed time. We�re really racing against the clock out here.
Trail: Have you managed to plot your route up the north east ridge yet?
Leo: We�ve picked out a couple of options but the route is really hard. From where I�m sitting right now now we�re looking up at about 1,200 feet of head wall and a ridge that looks like a dinosaur�s back. I think we�ve probably got about a 50-50 chance of making it to the top. If the weather stays good then maybe even better, but if it drops off those chances will decrease.
Trail: How has the team been performing?
Leo: Yesterday we had a real mammoth day of pulling kit up from base camp and it just proved what a great team we have. It was 24 hours of solid work and we�re all exhausted today, but everyone�s doing well and we�re as tight as ever.
Trail: So what happens next?
Leo: Tomorrow (Tuesday 15th January) we�re going to attack the wall! Once we�ve rested up today we want to make some real progress on the climb and Alastair Lee is with us so we want to shoot great video as well. The scenery is just something else � this ridge really is like a knife�s edge � so we can�t wait to capture it all on film. From the ledge we�re sitting on, about halfway up the mountain, we�ve got a view of around 270 degrees in front of us. The sun hit us at about 4am this morning and the light out here makes everything look so spectacular. We know how lucky we are to be here and that makes us even more determined to succeed.
Trail: Are you still planning to fly wingsuits off the summit?
Leo: That�s definitely the plan � we�re desperate to fly off the top. It all depends on the weather, but if the wind stays low and we find a good spot to jump from, we�re definitely going to do it.
Trail: We�ve been following your progress on the blog � has the extra publicity added any more pressure to the expedition?
Leo: Not really � we put a lot of pressure on ourselves anyway because we really want to succeed. The publicity doesn�t ever play a part in our decision-making � there�s pressure coming at us from all angles so we can�t allow things like that to have an impact on what we�re doing. The blogs have been a really great way for us to communicate with people at home and it�s been a nice addition to the expedition. It sounds like families and schoolchildren have enjoyed following what we�re doing so that�s great for everyone involved.
Trail: Thanks for talking to us Leo - we�ll leave you to get on with the climb. Good luck with everything!
Leo: Thanks very much � we�re going to need it!
We've been told by Berghaus this morning that Leo and his team have made it to the top of Ulvetanna via their new route. After 10 days of climbing and transporting heavy loads of gear up the face, the team are now safely back at basecamp having successfully conquered the peak.
We'll update with further information as soon as we have it, but in the meantime - congratulations guys!