Bennitt Bartl
2 minute read
5 Jun 2019
2:47 pm

From Everest to the office, Saray Khumalo returns to work

Bennitt Bartl

She says that the hardest day of the gruelling climb was when a fellow teammate lost his life.

The first African woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, Saray Khumalo, returned to work in Centurion this week. Photo: Bennitt Bartl

The first African woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest was back at work in Centurion on Tuesday morning.

Saray Khumalo, 47, reached the summit on May 16, together with her team of climbers.

“At the time I didn’t even know I was the first African woman to make it to the summit,” Khumalo told Centurion Rekord.

ALSO READ: Black Africans must pick up Everest challenge, says Saray Khumalo

“So many people say they’ve ‘climbed’ Everest. However, they are never clear on whether they actually reached the top.”

The 2019 expedition was Khumalo’s fourth attempt at reaching the world’s highest mountain.

“I began climbing in 2012. After I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, I decided to do the other seven summits.”

Saray Khumalo on Mount Everest. Supplied/Summit with a Purpose

Born in Lusaka, Zambia, Khumalo doesn’t necessarily consider herself an adrenaline junky.

“There is a lot of testosterone in climbing. Everyone says they climbed Everest in so many hours and often you also fall into that trap.”

“This year we were part of a smaller group and, having failed previously, I decided to keep to my own pace.”

“During the climb, you not only think of those who support you, but also the naysayers – those who say you cannot do it. I did it to prove them wrong.”

Saray Khumalo reached the summit on May 16. Photo: Supplied/Summit with a Purpose

The hardest day for Khumalo on her successful climb was when a team member lost his life.

“We were returning from the summit when we received the news that he had died.

“You then start to wonder whether the expedition really was a success.”

She said the reception she got when she came home was “overwhelming”.

“Reaching the summit was a very humbling experience for me,” she said.

“You look out from above the clouds, you see all that beauty and you wonder how people can think there is no God.”

She hoped her successful climb would make it easier for future generations, especially female African climbers.

“I want them to realise that despite their gender or colour, they can do anything.”

Khumalo’s initiative, Summit with a Purpose, was aimed at helping two foundations she holds dear, namely the Doctor Thandi Ndlovu and the Nelson Mandela Libraries foundations.

She returned to work at Momentum Multiply in Centurion on Tuesday, where she works as a business executive.

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