- Swazi national Sibusiso Vilane is climbing Mount Everest, the world's highest peak, "for every black man on earth." The park ranger indeed will be the first African man to conquer the Everest in a worldwide rush to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its first submission. An African woman may however beat him.
- I want to prove that not only white mountaineers are able to climb Mount Everest, a hilarious Mr Vilane told reporters at Base Camp (at 5400 meters altitude). Today, he left the camp to conquer the 8850 meter high Himalayan peak, which has claimed the life of dozens of experienced alpinists so far.
Mr Vilane, from the moderately hilly southern African kingdom of Swaziland, indeed wasn't born into mountaineering. Only seven years ago, the Swazi ranger accidentally made friends with a British alpinist, introducing him to the complex and dangerous world of mountain-submission. Since then, the talented Swazi found a British sponsor to enable him to plant the first African flag on the Everest.
Mr Vilane's success would be assured, if it wasn't for the extreme conditions on the Everest - temperatures are all but tropical, heavy winds appear without warning and the air is so thin that most of us would faint after two footsteps - and a female competitor from neighbouring South Africa.
There is also a South African team present at Base Camp. Apart from various white alpinists, Ms Deshun Deysel of African descent has become the star of the team.
May she become the first black person on Mount Everest ever, or will she become the first black woman on the peak? South African media are presenting their national and the Swazi neighbour as competitors, making a race to the Everest. The Jo'burg daily 'Sunday Times' even has a correspondent at Base Camp, following "the race".
- Not so, says Mr Vilane, who has understood the necessary solidarity among mountaineers at the feet of the world's tallest mountain. At these inhumane conditions, every alpinist must be able to trust his or her colleague. One step in the wrong direction could mean certain death. This is not a stage for competition.
Mr Vilane and Ms Deysel thus sincerely wish each other the best of luck and demonstrate solidarity. If the both make it to the top, in each case they will both set a record; the first black woman and the first black man on Mount Everest. Mr Vilane tells reporters he already has a good reason to be satisfied: "I'm the first Swazi ever here at Base Camp," he humbly says.
Now, "only" 3450 meters of elevation separate Ms Deysel and Mr Vilane from reaching even bigger fame. Let's hope they enjoy their trip...
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