This was an inspiring word from the first African woman to conquer Mount Everest, Saray Khumalo. The warrior arrived at OR Tambo International Airport on Monday morning. Gathered outside the airport waiting to receive the hero was a crowd that was excited to greet her. Holding a South African flag draped around her shoulders and carrying a bouquet of flowers, she made her way through to a venue where a media briefing was scheduled to be held.
“In 1953 Sir Edmund Hillary summited this mountain. How come no African woman has dared to try it? Is it because we are not capable? We can do anything we put our minds to”, Khumalo said.
According to reports, on May 16, Khumalo reached the peak of the world’s highest mountain. This had been her fourth attempt in trying to climb the Mount Everest.
Speaking about the journey, Khumalo said she embarked on a journey in 2012 to reach the seven highest summits of the world. But till date, she had only reached four.
“It was not just a personal quest. It was something I started on in an attempt to educate the African child. Everything that has been done today happened all because someone didn’t allow me to be starved of education”.
“I believe my accomplishment means that in a small way; I took every African, who everyone thought they couldn’t consider their pursuit, with me to the top of the world. Never Give Up”. These were the words of the first black African woman to scale Everest.
“I just wish that this message will inspire every African child of all colors, to reach their own individual Everest; whether it be personal, or that business that you are struggling with”.
While reminding them that this was her fourth attempt, she stressed that “one should never give up on one’s aspiration in life”.
Speaking further on the experience, she said, “The mountaineering reality is that the summit is only the halfway if you haven’t come down. Most people who lost their lives while trying to conquer Everest did so on their way down. Likewise, we lost one of our own, Seamus Lawless. I offer my condolences to his family and friends”.
According to the crew, Lawless, a 39-years-old Irish professor, slipped on the balcony area of the mountain while trying to descend to Camp 4, below the peak, on May 17.
“I urge everyone to make the most of the time you have because life is too short and death is inevitable. I pray that when the time comes, we die doing what we love, by making a difference, having a legacy of our own and leaving the world a better place than how we found it”.
Khumalo thanked her crew members, friends, family, sponsors and supporters for helping her achieve her goal.
“Mountaineering is a team sport,” she said.
News24 reported earlier that Khumalo – a mother of two and a business executive from Johannesburg – has been climbing mountains for more than seven years. She has reached the summits of Mount Kilimanjaro (5,896m) in Tanzania (2012); Mera Peak (6,476m) in Nepal (2014); Lobuche East (6,119m) in Nepal (2014); the Mount Elbrus traverse (5,642m) in southern Russia (2014); and the Mount Aconcagua traverse (6,980m) in Argentina (2015).
Her previous attempts to conquer the top of Mount Everest were all foiled.
In May 2017, Khumalo had to be rescued from Mount Everest by helicopter. She had injured herself during inclement weather while attempting to reach the summit. She was at an altitude of 8 749m – a mere 99 meters from the Everest summit. This made her the record holder of the black African women for 2017 and 2018.
Prior to then, in 2015, Khumalo reached Everest Camp 2. However, the mission was abandoned following an earthquake in Nepal.
In 2014, she reached the Everest Base camp. But the mountain was closed, following an avalanche that claimed the lives of 16 Sherpas (trained guides).
Khumalo uses climbing to do fundraising for good causes. So far, she has raised funds to build an outdoor gym worth R200 000 for Kids Haven. Also, she has converted a room into a library for the children. Even more, she has raised more than R800 000 for The Mandela Library Projects and built a library for Isiziba Primary School in Thembisa, Johannesburg. Again, she has raised funds for The Lunch Box Fund to feed more than 60 000 kids. She continues to campaign for funds to raise more libraries as she takes steps towards the seven highest peaks on the seven continents around the world.