First African woman makes landmark Everest summit

AFP . Kathmandu | Update:

A South African business executive reached the top of Mount Everest on Thursday, the first summit of the world's highest mountain by a black African woman.

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

"Khumalo is the first African woman to summit Mount Everest, in support of her cause of promoting access to education for African children," South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on his Twitter account.

"She reminds us that through courage and perseverance, we can achieve our highest ambitions."

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 said on her website.

- High season -
Many Himalayan mountains -- including Everest -- 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, according to expedition organisers.

Biplab Baidya, 48, and Kuntal Karar, 46, were on the 8,600-metre (28,200-foot) mountain on the Nepal-India border with a five-member team from India's West Bengal state. An operation was underway to retrieve their bodies.

Last week, Peruvian climber Richard Hidalgo died on Mount Makalu, the world's fifth-highest summit, 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 mountaineering industry for the impoverished country.

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