Profile: Leo Houlding – Greenland Snowkite

Leo Houlding

A few years ago whilst researching climbing in Antarctica I came across a story about a Norwegian guy, Ronny Finsas who kited 700 miles, solo from the South pole to the coast in just 5 days. That route is normally undertaken in the other direction, without kites and takes more like 40 days. A bit more digging and I uncovered another story about a couple of guys travelling close to 400 miles in 24 hours whilst on snow kiting expedition in Greenland. Eric McNair-Landry and Sebastien Copeland still hold that record.

These are mind blowing distances to cover with large amounts of kit in truly remote environments without outside support and it really fired my imagination. I decided to learn how to snow kite and was lucky that just down the road from my home in the Lakes lives one of the UK’s most experienced snow kiters who also happens to be my wife’s cousin.

For the last few winters Bruce Corrie has been teaching me. It turns out that snow kiting is not only miles harder and more dangerous than it looks, but requires quite unique conditions to be viable. Ronny and Eric are two of the most experienced and knowledgeable in the game and their achievements reflect this.

You don’t just grab a kite some skis and sledge and do stuff like that nor can it be practiced anywhere. However after about 50 days of effort and few near misses getting dragged over barbed wire fences on the fells or crashed through Alpine boulder fields I’ve finally cracked it. Not that I’ll be breaking any records but I now feel sufficiently competent to undertake a more serious kiting adventure.

I have met and made friends with many of the worlds top expedition kiters and feel very fortunate to have discovered and learned so much about this exciting and adventurous new world.

I suggested to Bruce that we put to the test his expert kiting skills and my years of expedition experience by attempting a serious polar mission. The journey we are about to undertake in Greenland is becoming the classic long distance expedition snowkite route thanks to a combination of consistent wind, suitable terrain and relative accessibility.

Over the decades I’ve been on a lot of climbing trips, missions and expeditions. However other than a few TV jobs I’ve never really been on major expedition that does not revolve around climbing so this is an exciting a fairly nerve racking first for me.

If it goes well it opens the door to an Aladdin’s cave of ideas combining long journeys with technical ascents, if it doesn’t then it might be time to shift focus back to sun kissed sport climbing and Gritstone bouldering so long as I don’t loose my fingers or toes to frost bite!

Welcome to a whole new world of white, wind & speed. Although a bit flat and cold it can be pretty darn fun did I mention fast?

I learned a great deal from Carl Alvey, Polar Guide and kite guru who lives in the snowkite Mecca of Haugastol in Norway ( It’s a very cool place and if you want to learn to snow kite Carl is the man

Known as a “kite-mare” this is what happens if you botch in strong winds. Took me hours to sort out in the warmth and comfort of hotel. Would be a real headache in a tent on a icecap.



Writer and expert