Months after South African woman Saray Khumalo became the first black African woman to scale Mount Everest, four women from the country are also preparing to become the first all-women African team to climb the world’s highest mountain.
Deshun Deysel, Lisa Gering, Tumi Mphahlele and Alda Waddell, who are all experienced climbers, are training on the sandstone cliffs of South Africa’s Drakensberg Mountains to make history by attempting to summit the world’s tallest peak.
At the moment, each team member does her own intensive mental and physical training along with group sessions to prepare for the difficult climb, reports VOA.
“There’s different elements that you need to train for. It is the technical, the equipment that you need to understand. It is the physical that you need to be able to do. And then also the cold. You need to be able to manage the cold. And then lastly, it’s the altitude,” said Waddell.
In September, the women are expected to climb up Mont Blanc (4,810 metres) in the Alps in Europe and Mount Aconcagua (6,959 metres) in Argentina on the Chilean border in December, as part of preparations for the expedition.
The women, who are inspired by Khumalo’s feat in May, have had their own climbing experiences over the years. Deysel is the only member of the team to have attempted summiting the world’s highest peak in 1996. Even though she wasn’t able to reach the summit, she has since been able to scale mountains on five continents.
“When I first started high-altitude climbing there was so few women in the mountains,” she was quoted by VOA. “If I look around now, especially in the South African climbing community, that number definitely increased and because of that we have a greater pool of women to choose from. So why not have an all-female team?”
Waddell’s first mountain climbing experience was in 2008 when she climbed Mt Kilimanjaro. She told EWN that she has been planning to climb Everest since last year. Describing herself as adventurous, she said she had done paragliding, bungee jumping and shark diving in the past.
On her part, Gering said: “I’m very big on living in the now and whilst the goal is next year, I’m very much focused on the day-to-day preparations both physically and mentally. I have to take the build-up as I would the actual climb, one step at a time.”
Mphahlele believes it is an honour to be part of the team.
“We are trying to show what women can achieve and I hope that it inspires other women in different aspects of life. We want to drive the message that women can achieve, and we want to set that example for other women”, she said.
The expedition, which is planned to take place during the peak Himalayan climbing season between April and May next year, is expected to last between six to eight weeks.
Mount Everest, located on the border between Tibet and Nepal in the Himalayas in Asia, is the world’s highest mountain at its official elevation of 8 848m above sea level.
Khumalo, the Zambia-born Johannesburg resident who reached the summit of the mountain recently, had, in May 2017, made an attempt but failed and had to be rescued by helicopter.
According to local media, she had been injured during inclement weather while trying to reach the summit of the world’s highest peak. Her two other earlier attempts were also foiled due to an earthquake in Nepal and an avalanche.
Sir Edmund Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first people to reach the mountain’s summit on May 29, 1953. Junko Tabei subsequently became the first woman to reach the mountain’s summit in 1975 at the age of 35.
Statistics say that more than 296 people have died trying to climb the mountain, and despite the many setbacks, Khumalo, who has also conquered Kilimanjaro and Aconcagua, persevered and has now set a yardstick for others to follow.