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  • Jeannette McGill

Mountaineering Moments #11 . . . Saray Khumalo

Saray and I were on Everest at the same time before we actually met. It was 2014. Saray was on the South (Nepalese) side; I was on the Chinese/Tibetan North. While we were both in our respective base camps, 18 April (6 years ago today) was very different for each of us: Saray ended up being surrounded by the immediate chaos coming from the devastating serac fall that sadly claimed 16 Sherpa lives; while across on the high Tibetan plateau we heard the stressful updates over jarring satellite phone calls and watched the Sherpa's in worried clusters trying to understand just who had been impacted.

Interestingly, we have agreed that while in 2014 we both might have been a little bit green for our respective high-altitude mountain projects, without being bold and brave we would never have achieved our subsequent mountain goals. Everyone must start somewhere. After eventually connecting, our partnership has grown to what it is today.

Saray is the first black African female to summit Mount Everest. She is strong, determined and focused. She has fierce negotiating skills and can also be exceptionally funny. She is passionate about improving others’ lives through the power of education and has championed millions of Rands of funds for various causes via her Summits with a Purpose platform. She is deep into completing the Explorers Grand Slam but unfortunately Covid-19 has meant patience is now required after a years’ worth of expeditions had to be postponed.

Favourite mountain expedition: Everest, as it has a way of humbling the best. It tests climbers mentally, physically and spiritually. 2 gear must haves: Gloves and double plastic boots (and glasses if you need a third) Biggest lesson: Humans are really a spark in a bigger scheme. Partnerships can determine success or failure, make the right and deliberate choice. No shortcuts to the top. Music or Audiobooks: Gospel music Shewee or squat: squat Sunrise or sunset: sunrise Post Covid project: Carstensz Pyramid or Mt Vinson, depending on the COVID 19 situation

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