The rock climber who used to live in Hathersage before relocating to Cumbria is probably best known to the public for racing Jeremy Clarkson’s Audi on Top Gear by free-climbing up and BASE jumping down the Verdon Gorge.
Houlding has since had his own TV series and has just completed a remarkable first ascent of a route he has been working on for a decade in the world’s rock-climbing mecca, Yosemite in California. His film about this climb, The Prophet, will be shown at the festival taking place on March 4-6.
On Monday the Showroom Cinema is screening highlights of last year’s festival, Best of Shaff 2010, which will include The Asgard Project. The 60-minute prizewinner at the prestigious Banff Film Festival in Canada follows Leo and his crew’s expedition to make the first free ascent climb of the daunting North Face of Mount Asgard on Baffin Island (Canadian Arctic) and then BASE jump off the top.
“Most people have actually seen Mount Asgard before, though they don’t know it,” says the climber. “It’s the massive cliff that James Bond skis off to escape the Communists before opening his Union Jack parachute in the opening sequence of The Spy who Loved Me.
“When I first saw that movie as a boy I thought, ‘That is the coolest thing I have ever seen – one day I want to do that’. So last year I put together an expedition to do just that, climb the mighty North West face of Asgard and BASE jump off it.
“We ended up air dropping all our of equipment out of a DC3 plane and then three of us skydived into the Arctic wilderness, hundreds of miles from anywhere. Whilst we were looking for our gear we found a ski sticking up in the glacier.
“A closer inspection revealed it was a 1970s design with a special cut-away binding. It was James Bond’s ski!
“Foolishly we laughed about it but failed to bring the ski back with us, leaving it sticking out of the glacier. I’ve since learned that we could’ve probably sold it on eBay for about $50,000, covering half the cost of the expedition.”
The Asgard Project is part of The Best of ShAFF 2010 screening on Monday at the Showroom.
See http://shaff.co.uk/content/27/best-of-shaff-screenings for details of how to book tickets for the festival and to view a video trailer.