100 World Class South Africans: Sibusiso Vilane

2013-06-27 12:00

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Conqueror of Everest, and more

It’s ironic that Sibusiso Vilane has become a pop-culture celebrity thanks to a TV advert hailing him as the first black African to summit Everest.

But that achievement was 10 years ago. At the time, Mandela called him ‘a real hero’ and then-president Mbeki gave him the Order of Ikhamanga.

But Vilane’s story didn’t end there.

He went on to climb Everest a second time, and also the highest mountain on every continent – four of which he scaled in one year – joining the elite Seven Summits club.

A simple question changed this game ranger’s life: why are there no famous black mountaineers?

From his first forays in the Drakensberg to the top of the world took just seven years.

Vilane isn’t done yet. He’s also walked 1 113km unassisted to the South Pole and, last year, 120km across the Arctic Ocean to the North Pole.

When he met the Queen in 2011, Her Majesty said: ‘It must have been different for you, coming from Africa.’

Polite small talk it may have been, but there’s truth in her words.

Through his talks and involvement in youth groups, he’s inspiring a new generation of South Africans to new heights.

As he says, ‘Every person has their own Everest to climb.

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