A whistlestop roundup with Rolfe

Rolfe Oostra

“Top of the morning, Rolfe, I’ve finally managed to catch you in between travels. What have you been getting up to?

Hey, good to see you too. I’ve just come back from Mount Kenya which was as fantastic as usual but at this moment I am in the UK working with a tree-surgeon friend as a grunger feeding the wood chip machine, most expedition leaders have some kind of back-up work and this plus working on construction sites is mine. I’m heading back to France next week to work in the Pyrenees.

Knew you would be up to some mischief but you never fail to surprise. How come you’re not exploring Nepal, your usual stomping ground for this time of year?

You are right! Nepal has become my second home for the last few decades but this spring I decided to hand over my usual gigs to our other leaders after four action-packed Expedition Skills courses. I went to Morocco to climb at the Todra gorge for a week, which was awesome! I think that out of all the places I have climbed over the years Todra must surely be in the top three! And from there I did my own thing on Mount Kenya. Which is as close to my spiritual home as anywhere.

Great stuff. What enticed you there?

I guess it is mostly for nostalgic reasons. Mount Kenya was my first international expedition when I was a kid, and it hasn’t changed at all in the many years since I last climbed it. It still has a remote feel to it, and we bumped into three elephants on the walk in. That stuff is always exciting!

That’s awesome. Do you miss the buzz of a high profile expedition at all?

To be honest I am glad not to be there this season. As you know I’m happy to let Ben (Ryle) and our other leaders take over from me on the well-known gigs. It’s their turn at the steering wheel.

I still love Nepal. I have many good friends there and there’s still some great stuff to do. It’s just that you won’t see me doing the super high-altitude stuff there anymore. I’m keen to see what is happening on some other rocks! And change my focus to some other more challenging peaks.

What do you mean by more challenging? Many would imagine Mt Everest is as challenging as it gets… how do you wish to be challenged?

Yes sure, the big E is a great adventure, but it has also become an adventure you share with big crowds. I still want to lead expeditions to 8,000-metre mountains but only the less crowded ones. Mountains that have a real remote feel. No people. No people problems. I live in a busy town in France, and I don’t want to be in a place that is even more busy when I am in the mountains. I want to experience solitude and good old-fashioned adventure where the whole team gets together to make the decisions about how to best climb a mountain. So, I’m focusing on projects like Mount Kenya, our Nun Peak expedition, Gasherbrum 2, the Great Trango Tower, and even Kang Yatse 2, which although is easy to climb still has all the elements of adventure!

It’s a real treasure to find corners of the globe left unturned or uncrowded in today’s world and get that ‘old fashioned adventure’ fix. Do you think Nepal has any “old fashioned” adventures left to be had?

To my mind there is very little “old school adventure” left in Nepal but there are some amazing mountaineering challenges that are super tough, even tougher than an Everest expedition.

For un-supported climbers there are still many rarely visited peaks and routes left on Nepal. Jannu, Chamlang and Kantega spring to mind. But for novice climbers wanting a challenging expedition which is tougher than Everest I think our Himalayan 3 Peaks ticks the boxes and some.

This expedition aim is to climb not one but three super spectacular 6000-metre peaks (Mera Peak, Island Peak and Lobuche East) in just over three weeks, you are continuously on the move, have very few rest days, half this expedition is in a remote place, you need to cross the near 6,000-metre high Amphu Lhapsa pass plus there’s minimal support from our Nepali crew. This expedition is a real “roll up your sleeves” expedition. All these elements make this experience tougher than Everest where you walk a well-trodden, fully serviced, and comfortable path to a fully stocked modern basecamp and then climb a well-prepared route to the summit, supported by a cast of thousands. Our previous Himalayan 3 Peaks expeditions have attracted climbers who not only want an awesome experience but to challenge themselves on something well out of the ordinary.

That sounds intriguing. I’m just packing my bags… so what do you need to do to get yourself on this kind of expedition?

Yes, that would be awesome! I’d love to have you along! You can pay your way by doing the cooking. Ha… actually, our cook is pretty awesome so perhaps help pitch the tents. But to be serious this is an expedition that is achievable by active people like yourself. All the skills needed to climb these peaks are taught to you by myself and my Sherpa friends as we go along and more importantly, I think you’ll love getting a glimpse into the real Nepal. And its coming up this October.

Sounds great! Right, we are running out of time for now so just quickly what are your next plans?

It’s been great to see you again. I don’t say it enough, but I appreciate all the tremendous behind the scenes work you do for us! I can’t wait to see you and Ben in the Pyrenees where I’ll be for the next few months. After this, I will be in India leading expeditions to Nun Peak, Kang Yatse 2 and Kang Yatse 1 and then I’ll be on the Himalayan 3 Peaks!

Of course! Thank you so much for the roundup, Rolfe. Always an entertaining meet. I’m looking forward to catching up in person this summer… Cheers and see you soon!”

An Interview between Rolfe & Holly, from the 360 Team!

Who else is feeling inspired??

What expedition does Rolfe think beats Everest?


Other expeditions mentioned in this interview.

Kang Yatse II: https://www.360-expeditions.com/expeditions/kang-yatse-2/

Nun Peak: https://www.360-expeditions.com/expeditions/nun-peak/

Mount Kenya: https://www.360-expeditions.com/expeditions/mount-kenya/



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