Four intrepid South African women are preparing to make history by attempting to summit Mt Everest in 2020 as the first all-women team from Africa to complete the climb.
The women – who are all experienced climbers and athletes – are Deshun Deysel, Alda Waddell, Tumi Mphahlele and Lisa Gering, with Ronnie Muhl, avid mountaineer and founder of Cape Town-based Adventures Global, managing the full logistics of the climb.
Preparation for the expedition involves a climb up Mont Blanc (4,810 metres) in the Alps in Europe in September and Mount Aconcagua (6,959 metres) in Argentina on the Chilean border in December, as well as intensive individual training by each of the team members.
Deysel is the only member of the team to have reached the summit of the world’s highest peak before, first achieving the feat in 1996.
Deysel said having that experience was vital. “I find myself in a fortunate position where I can guide and assist with the strategy and mental side of things. It does help to have at least one person on the team who has done the climb before and I’m very privileged that I can be that person.”
She said that there are a lot of aspects to taking on a challenge like this. “Every time you climb Everest, you climb for the sense of victory that you are going to experience afterwards. You must be in peak physical condition, but once you’re on the mountain, it’s all about how strong your mind is,” she said.
Waddell had her first mountain climbing experience in 2008 when she climbed Mt Kilimanjaro and has been planning on climbing Everest for the last year.
Waddell said she was very adventurous and had done bungee jumping, paragliding and shark diving in the past and that her family knew the kind of person she is.
“My twins are also very outgoing when it comes to physical activity, so they know the passion that I have for this kind of thing. The most important thing will be coming back safely and that will be motivation for me to actually achieve my goal.”
Mphahlele said that this was something that she knew she always wanted to do.
“When this opportunity came about, I knew that I wasn’t going to get a better chance to achieve something like this, so I jumped at the chance to be part of something this special”, she said.
Mphahlele said that it was an honour to part of a team like this.
“We are trying to show what women can achieve and I hope that it inspires other women in different aspects of life. We want to drive the message that women can achieve, and we want to set that example for other women”, she said.
Gering said each person would prepare in a way that worked for them and that her focus was on what was happening in the moment and not looking too far ahead.
“I’m very big on living in the now and whilst the goal is next year, I’m very much focused on the day-to-day preparations both physically and mentally. I have to take the build-up as I would the actual climb, one step at a time, “she said.
The expedition is expected to last between 6-8 weeks and is planned to take place during the peak Himalayan climbing season between April and May next year.