Sibusiso Vilane: First African To Climb Mount Everest

Sibusiso Vilane became the first person from Africa to summit the world’s highest peak Everest. Vilane is a South African national who is a popular motivational speaker and author. He has been involved in a bunch of activities throughout his career. People refer to him as an adventurer, mountaineer, marathon runner, and even expedition leader. He also famously served as the Scouts South Africa’s Chief Scout.

Vilane’s early life seems to be quite constricted within the boundaries of his home. His father is South African, and his mother is Swazi. Vilane primarily grew up in Swaziland and completed his studies of O levels there. He rarely knew the world outside the village he lived in. Despite being an Everest expeditor, Vialne did not know how to hike, make tents, or climb. He had never even seen pictures of Mount Everest growing up. In the 90s, Vilane worked at the Malolotja Nature Reserve of Swaziland, where he met John Doble.

Doble and Vilane soon became good friends, and Vilane volunteered for Doble on a hike one day. They walked for hours, passing through various streams and boulders. When they reached the top, Doble praised Vilane for his climbing skills and fearlessness. This ignited his passion for mountain climbing and hence encouraged him to become a mountaineer. John Doble would later also help him sponsor money for his first-ever Everest expedition.

His early mountaineering career started in the late 90s. He climbed the Drakensberg Peak in South Africa in 1996. Then he summited Mount Kilimanjaro in 1999. His official ascents of the Himalayas began in 2002 after he climbed the peaks of Lobuche, Island Peak, and Pokalda. These peaks are trekking peaks and are just above 6000 meters. He used these peaks as a part of his training for his Mount Everest expedition.

Sibusiso Vilane

Vilane started climbing in 1996 by summitting peaks in the Drakensberg. In 1999, he summitted Mount Kilimanjaro and went on to the Himalayas in 2002, successfully climbing Pokalde, Lobuche, and Island Peak, all of which are over 6,000 meters high, as part of his training for the Mount Everest expedition.

He then headed toward his journey to ascend the peak of the world, Everest, in March 2003. He achieved victory at the Everest Summit on the 26th of May 2003 via the South Col.

In March 2003, Vilane set off for the Himalayas again in his quest to be the first Black African to summit Earth’s highest mountain, Everest. He submitted successfully on 26 May 2003 from the South Side. This made him the first black African to summit Everest successfully. On the day of his summit, the president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, congratulated him. He was also awarded the Order of Ikhamanga by the president in 2006 for this ascent.


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Vilane did not stop with his Mount Everest ascent with the 2003 summit. He continued his Everest ascent and summited the peak a second time. In 2005, he summited the peak again via North Ridge. He was in the company of Sir Ranulp Fiennes and Alex Harris. This ascent is considered more difficult and has less success rate. Nevertheless, he achieved success and was deemed the first black African to climb Everest twice and via two different routes. This achievement benefitted various charities. His climb was a gain for the three child charities named: The Birth to Twenty Research Programme at Wits University, the Africa Foundation, and the SOS Children’s Village in Swaziland.

After the 2005 climb, Vilane completed climbing the Seven Summits. Seven Summits is the group of tallest mountains from each continent. After his Seven Summits, Vilane and his companion mountaineer, Alex Harris, even embarked on a journey to the South Pole. The team trekked the region covered with snow and ice for 65 days covering 111 km. This journey was an unsupported and unassisted trek and was completed on 17th January 2008. This made Vilane and Harris the first-ever South Africans to set foot on the South Pole. In the same vein, Vilane became the first black person to do so.

Vilane has also been acknowledged by the Queen of the UK at Buckingham Palace. He and his friend Sir Ranulph Fiennes were given a reception to acknowledge their mountaineering, adventurer, and exploration works.

 20th anniversary of our 1st ascent of mount Everest.

With all these achievements, Vilane has also helped prosper the mountaineering community of Africa. He led a climbing expedition team with eleven South Africans to climb Aconcagua. This mountain is the tallest peak in the southern hemisphere and one of the Seven Summits. He has also guided a five-member team to summit this mountain, including the youngest South African to summit the peak, Jayson Funnell. By 2012, Vilane became involved as a fully-fledged member of the British Alpine Club.

Along with his mountaineering and expedition career, Vilane is also a professional motivational speaker. He also gets involved in various charity and humanitarian work. He gives a very simple message to people. Every person has their own “Everest” to climb. Whether you’re prepared for it or not, it’s there – challenging you to reach the top and if he can do that in the most dangerous and inhospitable of conditions and against all the odds so.”

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