Outdoor adventurer Leo Houlding tells of 'brush with death' as Berghaus launch new innovations
Leo Houlding has put his life on the line countless times in pursuit of conquering some of the world’s scariest and most dangerous peaks.
But the British climber has revealed that the closest he’s ever come to death had nothing to do with his daring rock-face exploits.
Last July, the Cumbrian-born adventurer and television presenter was due to fly on the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 that was blasted out of the sky over Ukraine en route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam. It was only his last-minute decision to travel to Borneo a few days early that saved his life.
Berghaus-sponsored Houlding was going to the Far East to film a TV show for Discovery Channel and was actually booked onto doomed flight MH17.
Instead he decided to fly out to Borneo a few days early at his own expense to make preparations for the TV programme. It was a decision that saved his life.
Speaking at an event to mark the 50th anniversary of Sunderland-based Berghaus, Houlding said: “Of all the things I’ve done in my life, that is the closest I’ve come to dying.”
At the age of 35 and with a wife and baby daughter, the athlete had begun to question whether he should continue with the sort of high-risk escapades that had made him one of the world’s leading young adventurers. The death of his close friend and fellow climber Sean “Stanley” Leary in a BASE jumping accident in 2014 was also a stark reminder of the dangers inherent in his chosen line of work.
But that brush with death actually put those risks in some sort of perspective. The fact that he could have lost his life simply by getting on board a plane showed him that giving up on his intrepid adventures. Having conquered the Mirror Wall in Greenland last year, his next major project will be to tackle the 2,000m Spectre mountain, in Antarctica.
Houlding also revealed he has been signed up to represent Berghaus for another five years, an announcement that came as the brand opened the doors on its newly-refurbished headquarters in Sunderland.
Founded in Newcastle in 1966, Berghaus was bought by the London based Pentland Brands in 1993 and moved to its purpose built site on Sunderland Enterprise Park six years later. Although minor work has been undertaken in the intervening years, this is the first full refurbishment of the headquarters.
Products are not manufactured at the site, but all design and development work takes place in Sunderland, including the cutting edge products created by the MtnHaus design team. The building houses a product and materials testing laboratory, pattern cutting and sample room, and facilities for the team of clothing, footwear, rucksacks and accessories designers.
A company spokesman said refurbishment work had been completed using sustainable materials and methods wherever possible. Energy and water saving measures have also been introduced and there are multiple recycling points on both floors.
A ‘sky rail’ lines the ceiling of the first floor and holds both archive and current products. Inspirational quotations from outdoor athletes associated with Berghaus, such as Sir Chris Bonington and Leo Houlding, can be found on windows and other surfaces on both floors.
Richard Leedham, Berghaus brand president, said: “This has been a major project for Berghaus and has had an impact on everyone who works for the business. Here in North East England, we now have a world-class headquarters where we can continue to design and develop some of the best outdoor products on the planet. As Berghaus heads towards its 50th birthday in 2016, we have an excellent base from which to plan for the next 50 years.”
Berghaus also revealed details of two major new product launches for 2016 – an extension of its environmentally-friendly Colourkind technology and a complete revamp of the groundbreaking Extrem range.
For autumn/winter 2016, the brand is extending its Colourkind fabric dyeing technology to waterproofs, in a partnership with Gore-Tex. By adding colour to nylon chips before they are turned into fibres, Berghaus say they can make savings of 89% in water usage, 63% in chemicals used, and a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions. And as well has being kinder on the planet, the technique also results in a higher quality fabric with improved colour fastness.
The ground-breaking technology is being used to bring a new range of clothing with waterproof fabric to the outdoor market. For autumn/winter 2016, the fabric features in the Island Peak collection of men’s and women’s walking jackets and pants. The range includes: the men’s Island Peak 3-in-1 Hydroloft jacket; the men’s and women’s Island Peak jackets; the men’s and women’s Island Peak 3-in-1 jackets; and the men’s and women’s Island Peak pants. The fabric combines a waterproof and breathable 2L Gore-Tex membrane with a 40 denier ripstop nylon face.
Also hitting the shops in autumn 2016 is a completely new flagship Extrem range. Originally introduced in 1986, Extrem has accompanied leading climbers and mountaineers on over 90 major expeditions around the world, including the tops of all 14 8,000m mountains.
For the 2016 collection, athletes like Houlding, Mick Fowler and Angelika Rainer have been heavily involved at various stages of product design and development, working closely with Berghaus’ dedicated Extrem and MtnHaus design teams. The Berghaus athletes advised on and tested concepts, early prototypes and final samples of the new range.
EXTREM 8000 PRO
Berghaus claims that the new Extrem Pro 8000 will be the most advanced mountaineering shell jacket available. It is made out of 3L Gore-Tex Pro Shell, in a combination of two face fabrics. Around the hood, shoulders, hem and lower arms there is an extremely durable 70D fabric, while the main body features an lightweight 40D material.
The jacket also features Berghaus’s new Xpanse concept, designed to provide adaptability for mountaineering. The new Xpanse hood uses a system of magnets to allow the hood to expand for use with a helmet and then snap back into place when the helmet is not being worn. The Xpanse Back, featuring a storm proof box pleat and internal lightweight stretch mesh, allows greater freedom of movement across the back and shoulders.
Other features include: two large hand pockets with 3D panel construction; two large chest pockets; a discreet left arm bicep pocket; an internal zipped security pocket and microfleece lining on the inside neck.
RAMCHE DOWN 2.0 JACKET
The Ramche 2.0 is lighter, warmer and more durable than its predecessor, featuring the Hydrodown, water resistant insulation. Another innovation is Reflect Mesh heat reflective technology. The mesh, which has every fibre coated in aluminium in a permanent treatment, has been sewn into the core of the Ramche 2.0 and reflects heat back into the jacket without affecting breathability.
Other features on the Ramche 2.0 include: a low-profile helmet-compatible hood with front face adjustment and adjustment at the rear of the head; an internal stretch gaiter on the hood to improve fit; two large hand pockets with wind strips behind the zips; easy-grab zip pulls for use with gloves; single-handed adjustment at the lower hem to keep out the elements and prevent heat loss; adjustable cuffs with easy-grab tabs that can be handled with gloves and durable hook and loop fabric around the cuffs that work well in wet, snowy and icy conditions.
More details of Berghaus products are available at www.berghaus.com