Karakoram cancelled…visa in hand, flight tickets booked…what next?!

Rolfe Oostra

A personal update from me, Rolfe … where we are, Everest / Pakistan, and a shout out to our amazing 360 community…

This isn’t a normal 360 blog….this isn’t a normal 360 time!

Our feeds should be crammed full of enticing and exciting shout outs, of congratulations on summits and achievements, traversing amazing landscapes, of celebrations in far-flung destinations…but we haven’t done too many of these over the past 12 months! It’s been a tough time for everyone who likes to get out and about.  For those who make their living by working as guides, Sherpa, porters, muleteers, cooks, hotel staff…this pandemic has been a disaster.

But, with the support we received from our trekking and climbing community we have been able to provide much needed assistance to our local crews during the long lockdowns – and so I (and the whole 360 team!) wanted to give you ALL a shout of appreciation for sticking by us and the teams we work with around the world.

Watching Everest unfold this year, not being there, was challenging…a huge congratulations to the teams who got climbers on top; not only on Everest but on Lhotse, Annapurna, Dhaulagiri and of course Baruntse…of course it was a formidable Everest season, with the full force of Covid-19 and weather.

For me, the kick was the reality of not being there. Last year we were forced to cancel, this year, a planned decision, and so 2 back-to-back Everest expeditions that we haven’t been able to complete. Months and months of mental preparation, physical training and organisation shelved…and we really feel for the hopes (and patience) of our climbers just waiting it out for the opportunity to aim for the top of the world.

This week should have been about packing for G2 and Broad Peak. A double 8,000m back-to-back climb in Pakistan… I should be on a plane in less than a week.

BUT …. the news is we have again decided to postpone and, for the third 8,000er expedition to be moved, it wasn’t an easy decision to make. Once again, the ripple effect of disappointment flowed down … for us at 360, Suzanne, Bill, Stefan, Mattias and Kim but also for the hundreds of Balti people of the beautiful Karakoram and our Sherpa who were accompanying us from Nepal on this 7-week expedition.

Our Covid preparation was meticulous…

  • All team members have been vaccinated.
  • We’d ordered thousands of covid tests for daily testing for the whole team.
  • Implemented vaccinations for our Sherpa coming from Nepal.
  • Booked single rooms in hotels and tents throughout
  • Tight covid protocols drawn up, with back-up plans for each step of the way…

But, having watched the situation unfold in Nepal and knowing a similar outcome could be possible in Pakistan, especially given the remote communities our team would be travelling back to, we could not take the risk for our teams, western or local.
From a logistical perspective also, the basecamps of these mountains are remote and, should anyone need evacuating, the only helicopters that run are operated by the government. With these emergency resources currently in strong demand due to the pandemic, we could not deprive local populations or place a reliance on these. Guaranteeing the wellbeing of our climbers and local support teams was crucial.

In the end, we concluded that this thorough preparation simply wasn’t enough, and we had to prioritise the safety of our teams, from all countries, and wait ‘til next year.

So, here we are ….visa in hand, flight tickets booked and now an empty duffel bag!

Yes, it’s tough. Yes, this sucks, and yes, our teams are struggling… BUT with that said, I want to highlight the positive ripple effect you are creating by sticking by us.

With the initiative of Jo Bradshaw, the driving force behind setting up the African Education Fund, and your support in donations, we have sent thousands of pounds over to Africa to help with food parcels, medicine, buying of crops and rent…this has been a lifeline to our Kilimanjaro cooks, porters, guides and their families.

It’s not only the donations that help, but ALL of you who have kept your dreams alive and who have kept your bookings with us, (many rolled over 2 or 3 times now) have played a major role in the support.  We have moved over 600 of you to new dates now and, by postponing your expedition, our local teams have the knowledge that we will be back; that we are committed, and that’s just enough to keep spirits high, optimism ramped up and motivation rolling!

This has given 360 and all our teams worldwide a massive branch of hope. Postponing your expedition has meant we have all survived and continue to do so, and I want pass on our team’s gratitude.  You have given them and us confidence and faith… never underestimate HOPE!!

I am now dusting my disappointment down again, but looking forward to traversing the Pyrenees in June/ July, and grabbing some much-needed mountain time…will keep you posted!

So, a BIG THANK YOU for supporting us and the local teams, the trickle effect of you all jumping on board is felt far and wide … Covid is giving us all a kick, but let’s kick back just as hard!

Looking forward to crossing paths with you soon

Adios for now, Rolfe

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