SA woman makes landmark Everest summit

Saray Khumalo (@GovernmentZA - Twitter)
Saray Khumalo (@GovernmentZA - Twitter)

Kathmandu - A South African business executive reached the top of Mount Everest on Thursday in what is believed to be the first summit of the world's highest mountain by a black African woman.

Saray Khumalo, 47, reached the top of the 8 848 metre (29 029 foot) mountain after three previous bids were thwarted by bad weather, injury and tragedy.

Khumalo's Summits with a Purpose expedition organiser said she was the first black African woman to reach the top of Everest.

Nepal's Tourism Department confirmed that Khumalo had made the summit but had no record on whether she was the first black African woman.

In 2017, strong winds and frostbite forced Khumalo to give up on Everest, just metres from the summit. In 2015, her expedition was cancelled after an earthquake hit Nepal.

All Everest climbs were halted during her first attempt in 2014 when an avalanche killed 16 guides on the mountain.

Khumalo is on a quest to conquer the highest peaks on each continent. 

She has already climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, Aconcagua in Argentina and Mount Elbrus in Russia.

In 2003, South African park ranger Sibusiso Vilane became the first black person to summit Mount Everest.

Khumalo uses her expeditions to raise funds for libraries and support children's educational activities.

"My dream is to go higher and go further for as long as I breathe. To pave a way for my children and other ordinary people, so we may realise and accept that ordinary people like us can achieve extraordinary heights," Khumalo says on her website.

Many Himalayan mountains - including Everest, the world's highest - are at peak climbing season with the window of good weather between late April and the end of May.

The death toll is already mounting, however.

Two Indian climbers have died and a Chilean is missing on Mount Kanchenjunga, the world's third-highest mountain, expedition organisers said.

Biplab Baidya, 48, and Kuntal Karar, 46, were on the 8 586 metre (28 169-foot) mountain on the Nepal-India border with a five-member team from India's West Bengal state. An operation was started to retrieve their bodies.

Last week, Peruvian climber Richard Hidalgo died on Mount Makalu, the world's fifth-highest mountain, while a Malaysian died in April after being rescued from Mount Annapurna, where he spent two nights in the open near the summit.

Hundreds of climbers flock each year to Nepal - home to eight of the world's 14 highest peaks - creating a lucrative mountain industry for the impoverished country.

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