Video Interview Wilco Van Rooijen: No O’s Kanchenjunga 2022 Tough Decisions
We sometimes hear about a climber who has to make a tough decision as we follow mountaineering each season. Usually, it involves weather moving in that might jeopardize the team’s safety or rescuing a teammate. Well, this spring, my long-time friend, Wilco van Rooijen, 55, faced a difficult decision, but it involved staying true to his style.
The Dutch mountaineer cheated death in 2008 on K2, but we both lost a dear friend, Ger McDonnell, that year. Wilco, who always climbs without supplemental oxygen or Sherpa support, had summited K2, Everest, plus many technical climbs in the Alps. He had a sold attempt in 2018 on Kanchenjunga, the 3rd highest mountain at 8,586 m (28,169 ft), with his best friend and climbing partner, Cas van de Gevel.
This 2022 spring, they returned to Kanch for another try in their style. They had perfect weather day after day and had acclimatized on Meru Peak before arriving at Kanch’s base camp. They made one attempt but were going too slow behind a large group, and it was getting late in the day, so they returned to base camp. It was then that their expedition began to experience problems. The operator they had paid to provide base camp logistics told them they only had three days left as they were going. Cas developed health problems. Soon Wilco found himself high on Kanch with a climber he didn’t know and a very young and inexperienced Sherpa. Wilco faced a decision that would test his character and test his commitment to the style head sworn to honor.
It’s a fascinating interview where we talk about our Broad Peak experience, Wilco and Ger on K2 in 2008, and Wilco and Cas this year on Kanch. I take the opportunity to ask Wiclo his views on the changes we are seeing in the world of mountaineering of excessive use of oxygen, inexperienced clients with unqualified guides, helicopters, and more.
Memories are Everything