An interview with Andrew Gardner

Team 360

You own a company that sends people all around the world on international Cruises – so why mountains? 

Well my love for the Mountains started at the age of 16 when I spent a month on an outward Bound in the Lake District learning to trek, climb and canoe. The sheer beauty of the mountains and the amazing feeling of elation and adrenaline rush in reaching a peak or climbing a difficult rockface was just fantastic.  I carried this on for several years along with my love for all major sports until Family and work got in the way of things.  I knew one day that when I got my free time back I wanted to return to the Mountains again. 

How many expeditions have you been on now – which was your favourite and why
I have been on 5 Expeditions now including 2 Kilimanjaro Trips ( more on this later !) Mont Blanc, Everest Base Camp and more Recently Mount Elbrus.  I love Africa and have been there many times on business and holiday so Kilimanjaro is special to me but my favourite has to be the entire Everest Base Camp Expedition.  Starting in Katmandu, flying to Lukla and then trekking through the Majestic snow clad Himalayas to the foot of THE highest Mountain in the world was so special and it was made even more special by the Sherpa guides and local families we met along the way. With no roads everything they need has to literally be carried up the Mountains in all weathers and in some cases children have to walk up to one and a half hours to get to school.   How some people moan about life at home – they simply do not understand how lucky they are !!

When you’re not away on an adventure where is home and how do you spend your days? 
Home life is a little tame I am afraid with work and travel dominating my life along with my family and new Grandson. I am also a long suffering Aston Villa fan which can be Stressful at the best of times.   Work however is never a chore as I am Chairman and founder of a cruise agency specialising in selling ocean and river cruises throughout the World and apart from the usual management things I also get the chance to try out new cruise ships and new destinations so that I can recommend them to our clients – this is tough but someone has to do it ! 

What item would you never be without on the mountain? And what’s your little bit of luxury that you take with you?
I would never be without an experienced guide that I can trust to look after me in case of an Emergency. The Mountains can be dangerous places for so many reasons and you hear so may stories of groups with inexperienced guides that get into difficulties because of bad weather, altitude sickness ,illness or some type of accident that should have been avoided. Choosing the best and not the cheapest Expedition company is so important.
Luxury on the Mountain ?  It has to be my Cadburys chocolate bars.  

What advice would you give someone who’s thinking about doing an expedition for the first time? 
Firstly choose an expedition that will challenge you and make sure you really train hard to get the most enjoyment out of the trip. Secondly buy, borrow or hire the best equipment you can because there is nothing worse than being cold or wet or having clothes or boots that rub. Have a good small camera that you can easily put in your pocket or belt for quick access to capture that moment and go with a positive attitude so that whatever the happens you enjoy every minute of every day. 

What do you miss most when you’re away from home?
I miss my family and I miss having a nice hot shower every day – wet wipes are fine but there is a limit to what they can achieve !!  But what I do not miss is the general hassle and 90 mile an hour daily life of emails and mobile phones that seem to dominate our lives.   

Have you got a favourite moment from your expeditions with 360 and what was the most challenging moment?
My favourite moment has to be seeing a Sunset on Mount Everest from Kala Patthar.  I have been an avid reader of the Alan Arnette Everest Blog for many years hearing how different climbing teams are doing on their Everest Challenges so to actually be looking at the Mountain was amazing but to see it with an orange glow from the sunset was simply out of this world.  Whatever the view from the top must look like ??
My most Challenging Expedition has to Mount Elbrus. With a Summit day of nearly 2000m ascent up a very steep glacier and a midnight departure I knew we were in for a tough challenge and I was right !!  Having felt so good for nearly 10 hours and seeing an incredible sunrise over one of the most beautiful mountain ranges my legs and lungs told me that at 300m below the summit that that was as far as I was going to get ! Elbrus was certainly a challenge but a really enjoyable one that I would not have missed for the world – we had a great group and I shared the  joy for the 6 that made the top. 

You loved Kili so much you went back for a second time taking your whole family with you – was this more demanding or did it add to your overall experience?
Kili was my first real trek outside the UK and my wife Mary and I did it as part of a Charity group collecting money for Macmillan Cancer on behalf of a friend of ours who lost his son to Cancer. We did this fully funding the trip ourselves and passing all monies we raised to charity unlike some of the Charity schemes which fund the trip out of the monies raised which I totally disagree with !!  Trekking with a group like this however was so humbling as everyone had a personal story of why they were undertaking the challenge including one young girl aged 23 who had lost her Mother, father and sister to cancer and one lady who had lost 2 sons in the war in Iraq. The feeling of wanting to help each other was truly amazing. Sadly the trip we took was a typical short duration low cost one that took us up Kili as quickly as possible without any acclimatisation days. Half way up the Summit night my wife Mary and I got Altitude sickness and had to turn back. Not only were we gutted at not making the top we also felt guilty that we did not achieve our goal for which we had raised nearly £25,000 for from friends and colleagues.  We vowed that we would return again and get to the top !!
Three years later we did just that and this time we brought our 2 daughters and new son in law for family Holiday !!  For me having all my family with me for the Africa experience was just the best thing ever and something we shall always remember together.  I was obviously worried about how everyone would cope with the altitude, the heat and the cold but his time we did a 360 Tour with time to acclimatise better and I achieved my aim of looking across Africa from the top of its highest point ! My daughter Emma has since done Mera Peak with 360 and had another incredible Experience.       

Ed Viesturs famous quote is – “Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory. “Would you say that getting to the top is optional but having an experience of a life time in a new country making new friends is mandatory”?
Of the 5 Expeditions I have done I have only got to the top twice missing out on the other trips due to weather, Altitude and sheer exhaustion.  Of course I was gutted when I did not get to the summit and my aim in every challenge is to be successful but I can honestly say that I have enjoyed every minute of every trip and am already planning another adventure. For me it is the fun people you meet and the experiences you all share along with the stunningly beautiful Mountain scenery that make any trip special.   Incredible memories that last a lifetime. 

Who inspires you in the adventure world?
Kenton Cool and Sir Ranulph Fiennes are certainly people who have captured my imagination and their stories have certainly led to me wanting to take on Expedition Challenges. It is however more normal everyday people who take on a challenge that is so much outside their comfort zone that really impress me 

If you could have one superpower what would it be and why?
Like any holiday the worst part is always the bag packing and then journey home. If only I had the powers of time travel so that when you reach the top of a mountain you can say “ beam me up Scottie “ and I can materialise back at home without all that hassle .  

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