A British four-year-old has become the youngest person ever to reach the summit of an 11,000ft mountain – and he didn’t ask ‘are we there yet?’ once.
Jackson Houlding, and his sister Freya, eight, went on an out of this world summer holiday to climb Wyoming’s Rocky Mountains.
The pair camped in the wilderness for two weeks, using ropes to climb sheer walls that would make the most experienced hikers wince.
Jackson became the youngest person to climb Pingora Peak in Wyoming’s Rocky Mountains unaided – a staggering 11,889ft.
He was led by dad Leo, 41, a expert rock climber who was the 1996 British Junior Indoor Climbing Champion, aged 16.
He climbs some of the most dangerous peaks on Earth, and wife, 42-year-old Jessica, a GP, is an avid climber too.
During the same trip in August, plucky Freya also scaled nearby Wolf’s Head – a 12,165ft mountain – becoming the youngest kid to do so.
The Wind River Range where they spent two weeks summiting peaks can be treacherous, and is home to bears, bugs and freezing temperatures at night.
Their adventure comes a year after the kids became the youngest to summit a 10,000ft mountain – Piz Badile on the border of Switzerland and Italy.
Professional climber Leo, from Staveley, Cumbria, said: “I’m immensely proud of both my children and how far they’ve come.
“When me and Jessica started our family we always wanted to create these kind of memories with our kids, and were so thrilled we’ve been able to do it so soon.”
“Climbing comes with big risks, even with all right equipment and loads of experience.
“Loose rocks and uneven terrain can be a big challenge, and in some instances, one foot wrong could land you in a lot of trouble.
“That’s why we always take it slow and take the time to plan each climb down to the very last detail.”
The family were able to travel to Wyoming in August on the back of Jessica’s US passport – as up until recently the border has been closed for non- American citizens.
They flew to Denver, Colorado and hired a car to cross the border into Wyoming where they then rented llama’s and camped in the wilderness for two weeks.
During their travels, they encountered countless dangers, including extreme weather and dangerous wildlife – both of which significantly tested their family survival skills.
It is not uncommon for temperatures to plummet below freezing in the region and for heavy snow to fall, even in the summer months.
The long treks proved tricky for the kids at times, but Leo and Jessica were prepared, with Harry Potter audio books and endless games of 20 questions to keep them going.
“The weather can be so unpredictable in the Wind River Wilderness which is why it’s important to be prepared for any situation,” Leo added.
“On one day we were walking through the foothills when hailstones the size of marbles suddenly started raining down on us.
“Luckily, we were able to quickly find cover, but if that had happened when we were halfway up a mountain things would have been quite different.
“The wildlife we saw was amazing but again it can pose substantial risks if you are to get in an uncomfortable situation.
“For example, whilst I was away on a climb with a friend, my wife had a bear stroll right into our camp looking for food.
“The kids were asleep at the time, but were soon woken up by the sounds of Jessica crashing pots and pans together to scare it away.
“More time bears are scared of you way more than you are of them, but its knowing how to deal with them which will keep you safe.
“Hiking every day was a lot for the kids to handle but we could always rely on Harry Potter and The Order Of the Phoenix to keep them entertained.”
The family climbed the East Ledge route of the Pingora Peak, and, to get there, had to carry all their own kit with the help of two llamas.
Epic photos taken by Leo show his son Jackson slowly making his way up Pingora with the help of his expert father.
The steepness of each precipice is extreme, but this doesn’t seem to phase the brother and sister duo who can be seen climbing with ear to ear grins across their faces.
Freya said: “Being in nature is like opening a window into your heart to let in the happiness that was always there, only you just didn’t know it before.
After a full days climb, upon reaching Pingora’s summit, Jackson became the youngest person to ever scale this particular peak in the Rockies.
Jackson wasn’t quite old enough to tackle steeper Wolf’s Head – but Freya was certainly up for the challenge.
Leo said: “My rock climbing experience enables us to do these kind of holidays safely and comfortably and the kids really love it.
“I don’t think Jackson is quite at the age yet where he realises how lucky he is, but I know Freya is starting to understand that what we do is really quite special.
“Each climb we’ve done with our kids is a cherished memory, and we can’t wait to go on more climbing adventures in the future.”
The Houlding’s are planning to go climbing and sea kayaking in northern Norway’s Lofoten Islands next summer.