Between guiding expeditions to Nun and Kang Yatse 2 we caught up with Rolfe as he now has no less than *60 ascents of Mt Kilimanjaro* under his belt! What a milestone. With years of experiences from all the mountain memories on the Roof of Africa, we hear what Rolfe loves about Kilimanjaro and why everyone should experience it at least once...
So Rolfe, what are your most memorable summits?
“This question is a tough one to answer as I count every one of my 60 summits on this mountain as being unique in their own way. I guided practically every route on this mountain and every route has something remarkable that makes it memorable. The Lemosho has the lava tower and the Barranco wall, the Western breach a lot of cool scrambling plus a traverse through the crater, the Umbwe has pristine equatorial rainforest, the Rongai a lovely camp next to a tarn in the shadow of Mawanzi peak. The northern circuit has a real remote “alone on the mountain” feel to it. But ultimately guiding Kilimanjaro is about the people you are climbing with. A definite stand-out was my climb with the super inspiring Stefano who at age 74 reached the summit despite some serious obstacles to overcome, then there was an ascent with a Bishop, one where we stripped off and did the bucket challenge on the summit and recently the “Flash ascent” with Jules. But like I said, every ascent has been great for me.”
What do you love about this mountain?
“Apart from the incredible diversity of terrain a climber treks through to get to the summit, and the fact that it is the world’s highest freestanding mountain on the planet, Kilimanjaro oozes majestic energy. I get goosebumps every time I see it. I flew over it from Nairobi on my most recent ascent a month ago and was as struck by its enormity and grandeur as when I saw it for the first time 30 odd years ago.”
What is your view of the African crew you work with?
“I have been fortunate to have worked with the most incredible local crews over the 25 years I have been guiding on the mountain. My 60 successful expeditions to the mountain were only made possible because of the deep level of friendship I have developed with my local teams. We don’t just come to the mountain to do our job but look forward to spending time with each other and catching up on each other’s lives. You get to know each other very well when working in a challenging environment like Kilimanjaro and I love how very different each of the crew I work with is. Everyone has their own distinct personality but when we work together, we have a hell of a lot of fun! The highlight for me when returning to the mountain is the chance to work with these awesome people again. I love each like a brother!”
What is your view of the sense of achievement for clients on this mountain?
“There is only one Kilimanjaro, and everyone feels this huge sense of privilege to have the chance to attempt the summit. In the past I guided a lot of UK charity groups and for many of these trekkers climbing Kilimanjaro was initially as a fantastic a notion as flying to the moon. For many of these trekkers a lot of firsts had to be achieved even before the summit was attempted. First time in Africa, sleeping in a tent, trekking, scrambling, being at altitude and wearing trekking boots to name but a few. Imagine the sense of anticipation when we finally reached the high camps and prepared to make the summit bid. Then an entire new set of firsts needs to be achieved, climbing at night, in freezing cold conditions, towards the rim of an enormous volcano. A volcano that is just shy of 6,000 metres! To my mind Kilimanjaro is the ultimate challenge particularly because for the average trekker who attempts this summit it is the first time in doing all these things. Tackling a mountain as enormous as Kilimanjaro is a whole different walk in the park. Consequently, the sense of achievement at reaching the summit is incomparable. To realise what you have accomplished is an enormously satisfying feeling. Reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro literally is a life changing experience for many who reach the top.”
Why should people experience Kilimanjaro at least once?
“Climbing Kilimanjaro is not only about attempting to reach a unique summit. Like every other mountain it is the sum of all it’s parts and for this mountain that includes meeting awesome local people, the chance to see exotic wildlife, travelling through 5 very distinct vegetation zones, being near the equator, being in Africa, eating delicious local food as well as the climb itself. As I mentioned before, there is only one Kilimanjaro!”
Fancy trekking to the top of Africa’s biggest mountain? Check it out right here.
If Rolfe’s words haven’t given you itchy feet yet then why not hear from some of the trekkers who have joined him over the years…
- “I’d just like to say from start to finish Rolfe and his Kilimanjaro team were brilliant and made the experience even more amazing than I’d ever imagined. I’m sure I can speak for all of us when I say ” Thank you from us all.” – Dave
- “Highlights of my trip: making friends with our local team, Rolfe’s leadership – inspiring and an antidote to modern norms, meeting some outstanding people in the group.” – Ian
- “It’s been such an amazing adventure, scary, challenging and life changing. Rolfe and the crew he has around him are amazing and I would definitely use 360 expeditions again.” – Deborah
- “Since embarking on my first trip to Kilimanjaro I immediately felt part of the 360 family. At the age of 74 and with a pacemaker, Rolfe and the team kept a subtle eye on me whilst giving me the confidence and encouragement I needed to reach my potential.” – Stefano
- “Under Rolfe’s leadership our entire group of 14 people made the successful summit attempt. The behind the scenes organisation is amazing (I know I work in events) and the spirit of having an adventure with 360 is second to none. Will I go on another adventure with them? Absolutely!!” – Paul