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Climbers take their son, three, and daughter, seven, up 11,000ft Alp

A British seven-year-old has become the youngest person to reach the summit of an 11,000ft-tall mountain unaided after her daredevil family scaled the treacherous peak.

Freya Houlding, seven, climbed Piz Badile – on the border of Switzerland and Italy – along with her mother Jessica, 41, and professional climber father Leo Houlding, 40, in just three days.

Her three-year-old brother Jackson was carried up by his GP mother while Leo carried their supplies.

The Houlding family from Cumbria began their climb on July 25th and took their time completing the route – spending one night in an alpine hut and another two in temporary campsites called bivouacs. 

The family reached the summit on the third day of hiking – on July 27.

In 2004, British climbers Jules Cartwright, 29, and Julie Colver , 43, fell to their deaths while descending Piz Badile.

But Mr Houlding didn’t feel overly concerned as he said the climb they chose offers adventurers greater control over potential risks – including rockfall and bad weather. 

He has scaled some of the most dangerous peaks on Earth and his GP wife is an avid climber too. 

And now Freya has become the youngest person to climb the mountain without help, and Jackson the youngest person to get to the top – 153 years to the day since the peak was first climbed.

Freya said: ‘I found it really fun and really scary. I’m very proud.’ 

Jackson said: ‘It was really good, I enjoyed the bit I climbed on my own and the Haribo sweets.’

Speaking from Bregaglia, Switzerland, Mr Houlding said: ‘It’s a super classic route, the best of it’s grade in the world.

‘What was exceptional was we did it with our seven year-old-daughter Freya and our three-year-old son Jackson.

‘My daughter climbed it all by herself, all the way, including all the hiking and everything – it was very impressive. She only just turned seven last week.

‘My wife Jess carried Jackson on her back who weighs about 15kg, I carried all the camping equipment and food which weighed a bit more.

‘We’ve done quite a bit of stuff in the UK and Europe in previous years, but every summer the kids are bigger and more capable than the past year.

‘We did Triglav in Slovenia, but this was a league above that in terms of grandeur and difficulty.

‘If I was on my own, I could have run up it really quickly. I would do it in my hiking shoes without a rope, but for a normal team the guidebook time is about 8hrs on the climb, a two day round trip.

‘We paced it out because it’s a long walk up on the first day, and it’s a really beautiful place.

‘As you climb these peaks you go through different environments – you start in meadows with cow bells ringing, up through pine forests, then above the tree line into the Alpine realm of snow and rock

‘Then at the top you’re on a big pointy mountain and you can see for miles and miles, it has that big mountain feel – so we were in no rush.

‘It’s a walk in the park for me, that’s why I went up with the kids – if needs be I could have carried them up on my own one at a time.

‘Having your own children there, I was conscious that we were on a big adventure together but I never felt that we were in an unacceptable position and I never thought we were out of our depth.’

Piz Badile is a mountain in the Bregaglia range and stands at 10,853ft and it’s north face is considered one of the six great faces of the Alps.

The first ascent was completed by W. A. B. Coolidge with guides François Devouassoud and Henri Devouassoud on July 27, 1867.

The first ever ascent was made 153-years to the day before young Freya achieved the same feat. 

Mr Houlding, who is an ambassador for outdoor clothing and equipment brand Berghaus, continued: ‘It’s a proper rock climb, not a walk up a mountain, and one of the finest climbs of it’s standard in the world.

‘It’s a 1,000m long knife edge ridge and you’re using your hands the whole way, it’s a really long rock climb.

‘There’s always danger in the mountains, there’s hazards of fall, hazards of weather, hazards of rockfall.

‘The benefits of being on a ridge is that the threat of rock fall is much lower, if you’re on the face it’s worse.

‘These days mountain weather forecasts are so accurate you can mitigate that risk too.

‘For falling, it’s the person who goes first at risk – so I led the whole climb. I’m a professional climber, the most experienced person goes first.

‘In mountain activities there is more risk than in other activities, but we chose this climb because there is a lot less objective hazard – you can control the risks I just mentioned.’ 

Mr Houlding began the trip at 39-years-old and ended it at 40, celebrating his 40th birthday on the summit of the mountain.

He continued: ‘We started down in the valley and it takes about five hours to get up to a beautiful mountain hut on the Swiss side.

‘They’re kind of like hotels, they provide you with a bed and food – it’s a nice one, called the Sasc Fuca. We spent the night there.

‘With an adult team you would normally go from there to the top of the mountain then down on to the Italian side, but because we were with the kids we had a short day from there to a bivouac site.

‘We camped on a shoulder right below the start of the difficult climbing. It was a magnificent site. Then we did the big climb on the third day.

‘Then right on the summit we stayed in a bivouac hut – it’s a tiny metal shed, it was a spectacular spot with a huge drop from the front door.

‘On the fourth day we woke up in that hut and it was my 40th birthday, we descended the other side.

‘It took six abseils, then a long five hour walk through beautiful scenery to San Martino valley in Italy. Then we got a taxi back round to the camper van in Bregaglia.’

Mrs Houlding said: ‘It was great, we keep upping the level each year. It’s a huge achievement, especially for my daughter.

‘Now we’re on our way to a multi-day trek across the highest mountains of Montenegro but it won’t be as demanding as the Piz Badile.’ 

Last year, Leo became the first Brit to climb the world’s remotest mountain, Spectre, which is so isolated only ten people have ever seen it.

Spectre is a jagged mountain peak in Antarctica, 450km south of the South Pole, and he battled Antarctic conditions for more than 2,000km to make the climb. 

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