Journey to the top of the world
Despite all these achievements, the 46-year-old is not taking it easy. His latest adventure is the world-first 7 Summits Africa Challenge (www.7summitsafrica.com), an ambitious undertaking to summit seven mountains in Africa for seven causes in seven weeks, which started on 4 November 2017.
Charlie Human caught up with him ahead of his epic journey to chat motivation, mountaineering and everything in between.
You started climbing in the Drakensberg and haven’t stopped since – becoming part of the 7 Summits Club (a group of mountaineers who have summited each of the seven continents’ highest peaks) and completing the Explorers Grand Slam. Where does your love for mountaineering come from?
I was never keen or interested in mountaineering as a child because of my desperate upbringing in rural South Africa and Swaziland, but then I got a job in a nature reserve.
One day I offered to take John Doble for a short hike in the reserve, and he thought I should climb mountains. He got me interested when he told me that Mount Everest had yet to be climbed by an African after its first summit by Edmund Hillary in 1953. That was the start of my climbing career!
You’ve achieved a lot of firsts: You were the first black African to summit Everest, the first to do it twice by two different routes, the first to complete the Three Poles Challenge. Which achievement has been the most significant to you?
Mount Everest will always be number one, simply because it changed the way I look at life, myself and all that is around me. Everest has influenced all the decisions I have made since then.
You’re about to set off on the first-ever 7 Summits Africa Challenge. Tell us about this trip.
I am privileged to have been invited by Carel Verhoef and Sally Grierson (expedition leaders from title sponsor Great Migration Camps). It’s an adventure, of course, but there’s more to it: We’re climbing each mountain for a cause that affects the people, nature and wildlife surrounding that particular mountain – from endangered gorillas to climate change. The overarching goal is to show people the beauty and diversity of East Africa, which we hope will promote sustainable tourism to the region. This is needed to conserve the nature and wildlife here, and ultimately save some of our African heritage that is on the brink of disappearing.
On a more personal level, it means a lot to me as a proud African to be able to explore and promote parts of my continent. It is our duty and responsibility to experience and tell the world about our African pride and heritage.
What advice do you have for young people, who are interested in mountaineering?
Desire and the love for adventure is the start. Be proud of your heritage and your continent, and all it has to offer. Explore it and protect it.
Start at home, thereafter you can venture into other parts of the world.
- 7SummitsAfrica (www.7summitsafrica.com)
- Facebook (@7SummitsAfrica) and Instagram (@7summitsafrica).
- Youtube (7 Summits Africa)