Ex-Maritzburger conquers world’s Seven Summits

2011-09-19 00:00

A FORMER Pietermaritzburg resident, André Bredenkamp (53), now living in Cape Town, has become the only South African to have climbed the Seven Summits — including Mount Everest twice, from both the north and south sides — on his first attempt at each, and as an amateur.

And on July 25 he added the Pakistani mountain K3, known as “Broad Peak”, with an elevation of over 8 000 metres, to his list of successful summits, becoming the first South African-based climber to accomplish this feat.

Said Bredenkamp, “A South African tried to climb Broad Peak three years ago, but turned back after there was a death in the party.

“Last year my climbing partner, Mike Nixon, came within two hours of the summit.”

South African-born Mike Horn is the only other mountaineer with South African links who has summited this precipitous peak, the 12th highest in the world. Horn is a professional climber based in Switzerland.

Bredenkamp said that when Nixon returned from Broad Peak in 2010, his descriptions of the sheer beauty of the region persuaded him to embark on the ultimate challenge of his climbing career.

“Even though I knew my chances of making it would be slim.

“The food is low in nutrition and awful on the palate, while the conditions are unhygienic due to the shortage of water. The only water available is melted ice.”

In the unfavourable conditions — notably the lack of oxygen and sub-zero temperatures — many climbers succumb to illness or worse.

On the fifth day Bredenkamp was knocked unconscious by a rock fall and the day he summited one of his climbing team fell to his death.

However, Bredenkamp persevered, and his prize was a 360-degree view of “indescribable beauty” when he reached the summit.

He remembers how at that moment, his thoughts were about three influential people: his late father, Professor Vic Bredenkamp, and his late business partner and his New Zealand exchange student “father”, who both died last year. “I stood on the top of the mountain for 10 minutes, but it’s a time I’ll never forget,” he recalls.

Bredenkamp, who is a successful property developer in the Cape, has also completed the Comrades Marathon with a silver medal and finished numerous Duzi Canoe and Argus cycling marathons.

He attended Pelham Junior School and then Maritzburg College, where he matriculated in 1975.

His younger sister Ingrid Roberts, a motivational speaker based in the city, told The Witness that Bredenkamp was always active when growing up, swimming for Natal and achieving his Springbok Scout badge.

“As a scout he developed his great love for the Drakensberg mountains, which has stood him in good stead for his more serious climbs,” Roberts said.

She describes her brother as a very determined person, with the mental strength that enables him to carry on when others around him give up. Although their father, a hero to them both, was not able to witness Bredenkamp’s latest achievement, Roberts is thankful he lived to see most of them.

Maritzburg College headmaster Ron Jury said “We are very proud of Bredenkamp’s achievement, and at our school we hope our boys will emulate and aspire to such achievements. André is a great role model for young men”.

Bredenkamp said: “Climbing is not cheap, but I would rather end up with no money in exchange for the memories I truly treasure.”

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