Less than two weeks ago the incredible Saray Khumalo became the first black African woman to summit Mount Everest – the world’s highest mountain. Saray (47), a businesswoman, summited this 8 848 metre (29 029 foot) mountain on May, 16.
Only a few South African women have achieved this amazing feat and now, a group of four inspiring South African women are prepping to summit this mountain in April and May next year (2020) too. With only a few South African women having achieved this feat, the group will mark as the first all-women team to climb the summit.
The Everest 2020 team, who are all leaders, mountaineers and athletes, are Lisa Gering, Alda Waddell, Deshun Deysel and Tumi Mphahlele, all from Johannesburg. Ronnie Muhl, founder of the Cape Town-based Adventures Global, and an avid mountaineer, will be managing the full logistics of the climb.
The aim of the expedition is to inspire young women entrepreneurs to overcome metaphorical ‘mountains’ in their lives with the ‘courage to start and the strength to endure’ – the motto of the expedition.
All the women on the Everest 2020 team have extensive mountaineering experience, like trekking, hiking, climbing and summitting the highest mountains in several continents. As part of preparation, the all-women team will climb Mont Blanc (4, 810 metres) in the Alps in Europe in September this year, and Mount Aconcagua (6, 959 metres) in the Argentinian Andes in December, as well as intensive individual training and two weekly team meetings to ensure everything’s on track.
Lisa Gering says: “My prep for the climb is holistic and covers all areas – mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. I’m working alongside sports scientists for my endurance, cardio training, and strength conditioning. The Everest 2020 team are making regular trips to Waterval Boven for rock climbing and rope work, which is something that I am also focusing on personally. Mentally, to stay grounded and uncluttered, I do daily meditations, breath work, and practice visualizations and affirmations for what’s to come.”
The common thread between the all-women team, apart from the intensive physical training, seems to be mentally preparing for the summit. Alda Waddell says: “Many images of the difficulties faced on the mountain always come to mind, but I use this to my advantage to prepare for all possible scenarios.” Alda walks roughly 8 km a day, with hiking trails on weekends. She says “endurance is what gets you to the top – just one foot in front of the other. In my case, it’s stubborn perseverance.”
Apart from working on her base fitness which involves a lot of running, Deshun Deysel, who has summited Everest twice before, has joined a semi-pro boxing academy to up her strength and fitness. She also rides bikes, laps pool lengths, and climbs stairs on rotation with attached weight to keep up her strength. “I’ve had many tearful breakdowns while climbing. Knowing how to recover quickly from those feelings is what sets a climber apart. Emotional outbursts happen. Keeping this in mind and working on techniques to cope emotionally – like meditation and visualization – is of utmost importance.”
Above keeping the mental in check and physical preparation, Tumi Mphahele says reading plays an important role to prepping for the climb. “I read as much as I can on the Everest summit – how others found the experience and how they survived.” Tumi is a recreational endurance athlete, always in gym training for the next event. Her next big event is the Comrades Marathon, with a number of multistage mountain bike events lined up, too. Thumi also focuses on her strength with full-body gym work outs and climbing walls.
Another element of the team’s prep for their 2020 summit is sponsorship. The full cost of the preparation climbs and expedition will reach up to about R5 million. “We are working on sponsorship and partnerships with corporate companies who are interested in flying their company flags at the top of the world,” says Gering.
“Our mission is to highlight the plight of the woman entrepreneur in Africa by climbing the world’s highest mountain, and our hope is to inspire entrepreneurs, to relate to their everyday struggles, and create a positive narrative around the possibilities and victories that await those who give it their all.”
Follow the team as they prepare for Everest 2020 on Facebook.
Compiled by Features Writer Savanna Douglas