A South African did a feat no other person from his country has completed– Sibusiso Vilane is the first South African to climb Mount Everest.
Everest is the highest mountain on seven continents. Since 2008, Vilane has been a member of the “Seven Summits” club, after reaching the top of the highest mountains on seven continents, becoming the first black African to join the elite club.
Climbing Everest is no small feat, that is for sure. Vilane braved deadly snow storms and of course, frigid temperatures. He conquered the mount in 2003, becoming the first black African to conquer Mount Everest.
But why take on such a grueling ask. “I think George Mallory had a perfect answer to this question when he said because it is there. The decision to climb Everest came when a friend told me that he thought I had a talent for climbing and that Everest had not been climbed by an African even after nearly fifty years after Hillary’s first conquest of the Mountain,” explains Vilane, who has been a conservationist in the bush for 12 years. (Sir Edmund Percival Hillary was one of the first people to climb Mount Everest and George Mallory was an English mountaineer who scaled the mountain in the early 1920s.)
For Vilane, it was also a matter of making history. In fact, Nelson Mandela hailed him as a hero at the time. “The fact that I was able to do it despite coming from a non-climbing background shows the world and every African that we have what it takes to also achieve greatness. It is a message to all those who overlook Africa,” says Vilane. A dream since 1996, Vilane says, “It took 30 days to train for it because I could not afford going to all the ideal places for training. I only officially joined a group which tried to climb three small mountains in Nepal within the 30 days. We summited two only but the experience I thought was enough for me to take on the Big E.”
But conquering Everest’s treacherous slopes wasn’t the only time the adventurer would make history. In 2008, Vilane became the first black African to walk completely unassisted to the South Pole. He undertook the journey on foot and walked 1,113 kilometers in 65 days in one of the world’s most dangerous terrains. With the strongest winds on Earth, the Antarctica winds can blow at speeds of over 300 kilometers per hour with temperatures as low as -40 C.
Born in South Africa’s north-western province of Mpumalanga, Vilane grew up in a remote village in Swaziland. When he climbed Everest for a second time in 2005 he raised $40,000 for two children’s charities.
He hopes he inspires young Africans to reach the top in their own life journeys. “One word: ‘Pride’. It means that we Africans can also challenge the almost impossible and we stand to conquer and can match the world in many ways,” he says.
He´s even written a book about the adventure– To the Top from Nowhere (http://www.aardvarkpress.co.za/ProductInfo.aspx?productid=9780958490788) and he has a second book coming soon about his walking excursion.