The climbs by the first black African woman to conquer Mount Everest are dedicated to people who dare to dream – providing an inspiring message and changing the narrative for the next generation.
Saray Khumalo is a Johannesburg-based businesswoman, mountaineer and mother of two who not only conquered Mount Everest in May 2019, but was also the first black African woman to do so.
Khumalo’s personal mantra is “I am extraordinary”, and her achievements fall nothing short of it. Having already scaled Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Elbrus in Russia, Aconcagua in Argentina and now Everest, her goal to complete an Explorers Grand Slam (climbing the seven summits of the highest mountains on each of the continents and at the two poles) is well on its way. Summiting Everest is no easy task and it took Khumalo four attempts to reach the top. She was forced to turn back during her three previous attempts due to an avalanche, an earthquake and an injury sustained due to the treacherous conditions. However, these experiences did not deter her from trying again and, in 2019, she reached the top — a testament to her great determination and perseverance to achieve what she sets out to do.
Her climbs are dedicated to people who dare to dream, providing an inspiring message to young black African women to reach for the stars in whatever field they’re in. Khumalo aims to change the narrative for the next generation of Africans and to prove that it doesn’t matter what you look like or where you come from — you can still change the world. Her belief and investment in the youth of the country is truly inspiring and she uses her platform to give hope to young Africans to reach the top of their own personal Everests, despite the curveballs encountered along the way.
Khumalo’s desire to change the lives of ordinary South Africans through her expeditions have raised money, especially in education and literacy. In 2012, after summiting Kilimanjaro, her journey to give back to the community started when she raised money to build an outdoor gym and a library for a home in Johannesburg. Her initiative Summits With A Purpose has raised more than R1 million, which goes towards building libraries for South African schoolchildren as a Nelson Mandela Libraries ambassador. Khumalo believes that education is the equaliser and she hopes that young South Africans can follow in her footsteps as she continues to campaign to build more libraries, while taking steps towards the top of the seven highest peaks around the world.
Conquering the formidable Mount Everest is just the tip of the iceberg for Khumalo. Through mountaineering, she has inspired the lives of many young South African women, and has given back to communities to encourage future generations to also aim high and reach their goals. Her endurance and “never say die” attitude, combined with how she effortlessly balances being a mother, businesswoman and mountaineer, truly makes Khumalo a superhero in every possible way. Embarking on a journey to complete an Explorers Grand Slam while helping others in the process is Khumalo in a nutshell — a fearless woman whose legacy is sure to be remembered for years to come.