Everest 2019: The Fixer

Expeditions: Everest via the North Col , Everest via the South Col

Rolfe Oostra

It’s never long after arriving in Kathmandu before my hotel room telephone rings and a discussion about how to best climb Mount Everest fires up. Never mind that it is near midnight, that I have just done 24 hours of mind-numbing long haul, spent the last month holidaying with family and friends and that my brain is finding it difficult to make the play/work transition, it all has to be talked about, now!

The caller is my expedition fixer. I won’t mention his name as he is rather shy but I am sure that many a veteran Himalayan climber will know who he is and has been helped out of a tricky situation by him. Personally this guy is my Mr. Wolf. I have only one number in my phone.
The call rapidly cuts through the preliminary niceties, only a quick ‘Namaste Rolfe’ and we’re off.

My head soon whirls at the details; times and dates for our meetings, enormous lists of things to do, food shopping to be done, medical stuff still to buy, visas still to sort, podcasts to factor in, client diet plans to prepare, electronic stuff to repair and how many yaks do we actually need?

The funny thing about our fixer is that he is the most unlikely person you could imagine to be involved in this game. Short, skinny but with a perfect potbelly, sixties mullet haircut, gold rings on his fingers and he knows how to party.

His only trekking experience was a chopper ride to Everest basecamp where because of the rapid altitude gain from the Kathmandu valley he spent his time throwing up. You’d think he’d be a Sherpa but he is a proud Brahmin from the lowlands. In short, the man is a legend and perfect for the job.

The job he does only requires a Herculean brain. Our fixer is the detail man from heaven and he has his fingers in uncountable pies. Need a chopper in 5 minutes? Stress not. Need to negotiate the number of yaks with a Tibetan nomad? He’s there. Want a Michelin quality chef for the basecamp kitchen? Sure we’ll fish one out of the finest restaurant in Kathmandu. Bargain down a Chinese official? He’s got what it takes. Want the best Sherpa crew? Here’s your man to ask. Change rooms in a hotel? Man! The guy owns the hotel! Need specialist high altitude medicine? Look no further. Can’t find that spare part for your avalanche transceiver? He’s got one in his pocket… In short this guy is invaluable.

But as per usual his vast expertise comes at a price. With anything in this world, you get what you pay for. In the past I have been bitten by fixers promising the world but delivering zilch. Or dealt with the kind of guy who works well when the sun shines but whose utter incompetence shines through when the shit hits the fan.

When guiding Mount Everest for a team of clients who have paid top dollar, it is essential to have the behind the scenes backing of someone who delivers the goods when the chips are down and all hell is breaking lose.

There is only one such person in the Himalaya. And I am glad to call him my friend.

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