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SA businesswoman becomes first black African woman to scale Mount Everest

After four attempts at climbing Mount Everest, a South African businesswoman has finally reached her goal, becoming the first black African woman to scale the world’s highest mountain.

Saray Khumalo, a Zambia-born Johannesburg resident reached the summit in the early hours of Thursday, according to South African media, News24.

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 reached the summit of the mountain Thursday morning. Pic credit: Summit with a Purpose
Khumalo had, in May 2017, tried to reach the summit of the mountain, 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.

 “In 2012, Saray summited Mount Kilimanjaro and in the process, raised funds for the Lunchbox Fund.

“The mountaineering passion took hold and she embarked on a journey to climb the highest peak on each continent, not for herself but the education of African children,” writes climbing initiative, Summits with a Purpose on Facebook.

“She summited Mount Elbrus in 2014 and Mount Aconcagua in 2015.

“She became a Nelson Mandela Libraries ambassador and raised nearly R1m for school libraries. After being on Everest during both the Serac fall (2014) and the earthquake (2015), she reached the south summit in 2017.

“Through pure perseverance, grit and courage she decided to return to Mount Everest in 2019. During this expedition, she supports the Dr Thandi Ndlovu Foundation.

“From all of Africa – congratulations on your summit, Saray,” the platform wrote.

Saray Khumalo. Pic credit: Facebook

 Khumalo had written about her dream to conquer the mountain: “My dream is to go higher and go further for as long as I breathe. To pave a way for my children and other ordinary people, so we may realise and accept that ordinary people like us can achieve extraordinary heights.

“To not think too much about the difficulties on the way but keep focused on the end goal and to take their hand, motivate them to realise that they too may dream the impossible dream.”

South African media TimesLIVE has given a timeline of her journey:

April 20 – Khumalo arrives at Base Camp;

April 26 – Khumalo ascents to Camp Three before returning to Base Camp to acclimatise;

May 12 – Khumalo leaves Base Camp;

May 14 – Khumalo arrives at Camp Three;

May 15 – Khumalo rests for a few hours at Camp Four before the final push;

May 16 – Khumalo reaches the top of the world.

Khumalo, an award-winning mountaineer, a Mandela libraries ambassador, and a social entrepreneur is a mother of two boys and also an executive in one of the distinguished financial institutions in South Africa.

She has, over time, demonstrated her commitment to making a difference in her environment through mountaineering. While being profiled recently for her company as part of Women’s Month, Khumalo said:

“Your gender shouldn’t be an issue. Where you come from shouldn’t be an issue. How much you have shouldn’t be an issue. If you believe in yourself, everyone else will believe in you too.”

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