A woman stands with her dog on a frosty morning.

Basecamp & Beyond: Karolina Pakenaite

“I want to be the first deafblind person to summit Mt. Everest! I know a deaf person has reached it, and a blind person has done it too, but not sure about deafblind. If I ever get the chance, I want to do it before my sight is completely gone. Time is ticking, so I figured it's now or never. "

Meet our good friend and constant inspiration Karolina Pakenaite, a deafblind adventure seeker with quite a story to tell. Karolina has Usher’s Syndrome, affecting both her hearing and sight, which began deteriorating at the age of 19. Since then she’s trekked to Everest Base Camp, run the 2024 London Marathon alongside guide Sammar Gurung, and has plans to be the first deafblind person to summit the big one.

Two people and a dog surrounded by woodland.
Photo by @s_b_originals

We first clocked Karolina in one of our Sherpa Fleeces at Everest Base Camp back in 2023. That journey and the steps to get there gave her time to think. To tilt her head back and ask the question: “What if?”.

Since the start of this year, 6,664 people can say they’ve stood atop the tallest mountain in the world. Karolina hopes to add her name to the list, and we have full faith in her to do just that. We caught up with Karolina to talk all things escapism, empowerment in the outdoors, Passenger gear picks, and how you can help support her mission to Mt Everest.

A woman and their dog on a frosty morning in the park.
Photos by @s_b_originals
A woman and their dog on a frosty morning in the park.

For those asking, her waggy-tailed adventure buddy, all-round ‘good boy’ and guide dog is called Bosley. Now that’s a crackin’ name.

Karolina, what has been the most exciting part of this journey?

Reflecting on this journey, my excitement extends far beyond reaching the final destination, encompassing every step along the way. I had the pivotal 'click' moment at the Everest Base Camp trek, where I realised that I had a narrative to share and that summiting Everest wasn't just a distant dream. From that instant, it felt as though every piece of the puzzle fell seamlessly into place, reaffirming my decision to trust my instincts.

A smiling woman in a beanie chatting to a friend.
Photo by @s_b_originals

“While summiting Everest undoubtedly stands as a monumental aspiration, it's merely a chapter within the larger narrative of my life.”

What truly captivates me is the entirety of this whole journey - strengthened relationships with fellow mountaineers, the profound trust upon which our lives depend, and the overwhelming outpouring of support from the wider community. While the journey ahead remains long and arduous as I strive to turn this expedition into a reality, the ascent to Everest's summit has, in a sense, already commenced, fuelling my excitement and determination.

A person in full winter gear, training in the snow.
Photo by @s_b_originals

What advice would you give to other people living with a disability, to encourage them to get into the outdoors?

If you have the means to, go climb that mountain. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do. If you believe that you can, there will always be a way. And going for it with the help that is needed and offered transforms your journey into something greater than just your own. It becomes an opportunity to empower others to join you on this adventure too.

Two people trekking through the snow.
Photo by @ itsadamraja

It's not about being an inspiration because of your disability; it's about inspiring others by inviting them to experience it alongside you. By embarking on this journey, you open doors for others to witness the beauty of the outdoors and the strength of their own human spirit. So, embrace the challenge, pave the way for others, and let your journey be a beacon of possibility and inclusivity for all.

What was your best-loved piece of Passenger gear, and why?

My absolute favourite piece of Passenger gear has to be the Sherpa fleeces. They are so comfy and cozy! As a student, investing in mountaineering gear was financially challenging for me. I purchased some items with the intention of returning them if they weren't utilised. 

A person stood smiling at Everest Basecamp.
Featured: Karolina in our Sherpa Fleece at Everest Basecamp

However, the moment I stumbled upon the Passenger fleece in a store, I knew it was a keeper.

Throughout my base camp trek, I practically lived in mine, layering it with other clothing to combat the biting cold. The fleece's built-in hood proved to be a true lifesaver, providing much-needed protection against the harsh winds and swirling dust of the elements.

Since then, it's become an integral part of my wardrobe, offering comfort and warmth like no other. It's safe to say that I've hardly taken it off since, making it my ultimate go-to garment for any adventure.

What does "Escapism" mean to you?

Escapism, to me, is not about fleeing from reality, but rather it's about embracing the moments life offers. It's immersing myself entirely in the present, savouring each experience, no matter how monumental or mundane, every sensation, whether joyful or challenging.

Two people walking away into the woods.
Photo by  @s_b_originals

“Whether navigating the fragility of old age, confronting adversity like complete deafblindness, or encountering unexpected trials, all these moments will continue to serve as my escape”

These are the moments I treasure, knowing they'll be revisited in my memories, time and time again. Whether navigating the fragility of old age, confronting adversity like complete deafblindness, or encountering unexpected trials, all these moments will continue to serve as my 'escape', offering solace and guidance through life's shadows and into the luminous realm of possibility and resilience.

Follow Karolina’s story on Instagram, check out her website, Substack, and support the Everest journey via her Gofundme page.

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