On Top Of The World – Jaco Ottink


Success won’t come easy. An assembly in the auditorium featuring Jaco Ottink taught us that.

Mr. Ottink, an avid explorer and mountaineer, has achieved what most people can only dream about—the Explorers’ Grand Slam. He has successfully climbed the highest summits of all seven continents and travelled to the North Pole and the South Pole. However, like most of us, he began his journey with a dream.

“Dreams must challenge us, enrich us, and give us energy”, believes Mr. Ottink. Ever since he was a young boy, he would go hiking in the Alps with his family. But something inside him always wished that they would hike further up, until they reached the summit. While chatting with his father, he realised that he wanted to venture beyond the average, and this became the first step towards accomplishing his dream.

With any dream, Mr. Ottink recommends creating a “list with potential challenges” and “working on how to overcome them”. Mr. Ottink’s dream of climbing Mount Everest took him years of preparation. In those years, he gained experience by climbing other summits around the world. For him, the most difficult struggle of climbing Mount Everest was the mental challenge.

“Of course being 11 weeks away from the family is very challenging, but the unknown aspect of being close to 9000 meters and not knowing how your body (with almost no oxygen available) will react was very challenging too”. Furthermore, Mr. Ottink had to keep in mind that the success rate of Mount Everest climbers is quite low. However, this did not daunt him since he was committed to his training, planning, and mental preparation.

“I think all the years that I have been climbing (so from the age of ten) have been a part of my success and training,” says Mr. Ottink.

“The 2 years before going to Everest with 100% focus during the last 6 months have been the key ingredient to my success. During the last period, I have been physically training around 25 hours a week (swimming, running, gym, pilates, hiking, physiotherapy sessions, etcetera) in combination with mental preparation.”

Most people cease dreaming as they grow older, but Mr. Ottink strongly suggests that we “need to discover who we are and not only up to the age of 20.

“As an explorer of the world, I set goals that always come from a dream and have a purpose. For this reason, I am convinced that we should dare to dream as a child, a teenager, or an adult.”

The expedition was an unnerving yet rewarding experience for Mr. Ottink, who climbed Mount Everest along with a small group of other mountaineers and experts. The entire journey is so gruelling that climbers lose about 30 to 50 pounds during the trip! The group had to travel across crevasses, walking daunting suspension bridges, and carry all of their climbing gear, food, fuel, and tools up to the top and back. If this wasn’t unnerving enough, they had to climb quickly and efficiently, because glaciers on Mount Everest move around 70 meters per year. As the altitude increased, the amount of oxygen in the air and the temperature plummeted. One of the group members was, unfortunately, forced to turn around and go back to the base camp since he was not strong enough to continue the journey safely. Mr. Ottink barely slept throughout the trip and the climb was challenging both mentally and physically, but his goal of returning home safely to his family kept him going through difficult times. He recalls an extremely difficult time when he was one hour away from the summit and his eyes were almost frozen shut. He could barely see or breathe and felt as if he would not be able to continue the climb. Luckily, the right support from his sherpa convinced him to keep going and achieve his dream.

After his victorious return from Mount Everest, Mr. Ottink enjoyed many “celebration parties, starting in basecamp with 14 bottles of champagne and my wife on the phone, followed by a big party in Sydney, and a few weeks later, in my home country, the Netherlands. But probably the most important moment was the day that I had my children again around me at the airport because my goal was never the summit, but always to return home safely.” Shortly after completing his expedition, Mr. Ottink launched his own company, Beyond Summits. When asked what he plans to do next, he replied that his new dream is to inspire 1 million people to pursue their own dreams.

Mr. Ottink’s best advice is,  “JUST START! Please find your own Everest and enjoy the challenges along the way, because you will enjoy your achievement even more. For me it was a privilege to stand on the highest point of our world, knowing that 7 billion people and everything around me was below me; what is it for you?”