Leila Fourie, 49, climbed the highest mountain in Antarctica
Eight years ago I took up mountaineering to counter the stress of my job as the CEO of a financial company. The travel and solitude involved in conquering a mountain was just what I needed to re-energise and re-boot. In recent years I have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, Mount Elbrus in Russia and mountains in South America, the Himalayas,
Peru and New Zealand.
In January this year I went to Antarctica, the coldest and windiest continent in the world, to climb Mount Vinson, 4,892 metres above sea level.
To build endurance and fitness, I cross-trained 15 hours a week for six months. This involved doing long treks lasting 6–10 hours with a heavy backpack across hilly terrain, strength training, cycling, running and yoga.
I trained in a high altitude gym to simulate the low oxygen levels I would be experiencing. I also did a mountaineering course to learn how to use a rope and hitch-knot to help climb out of a crevasse after a fall.
The trip took two weeks but despite pain from freezing temperatures and getting a terrible cold and cough, I only thought about giving up once. It was after an exhausting day carrying a 25kg pack up an ice ascent of 1,200m at a 45 degree angle. But I pushed on to the next break and as we set up camp some climbers gave us a cup of hot chocolate to share between myself and my four fellow climbers. It tasted incredible and spurred me on to keep going.
The final climb took 12 hours at -37°C. When I reached the summit,
I felt elated, relieved, exhausted and overwhelming joy. Mountaineering has taught me to dig deep, persevere and believe in myself. It reminds me that I am strong and can do anything I set my mind to.”