Ex-PE woman con­quers world’s eighth-high­est peak

The Herald (South Africa) - - News - Siyabonga Se­sant [email protected]­soblack­star.co.za

A for­mer Col­le­giate Girls’ High School pupil has be­come the first South African woman to con­quer the world’s eighth­high­est moun­tain peak.

It was sec­ond time lucky for avid moun­tain climber Jean­nette McGill, who man­aged to power up 8,163m from the ground, to suc­cess­fully climb Mt Manaslu in Nepal in Septem­ber 2018.

She had first at­tempted Manaslu in 2015, but did not sum­mit due to bad weather and dan­ger­ous con­di­tions.

McGill, 45, whose fa­ther is a for­mer head of the chem­istry depart­ment at NMU and who now lives in Aus­tralia, said she would be back in the Friendly City in early Fe­bru­ary to talk about her per­ilous ex­pe­di­tion.

“Climb­ing an 8,000m moun­tain was a life dream of mine,” McGill, who first joined the Moun­tain Club of South Africa when she was only 13, said.

“These are moun­tains that are as high as planes fly. There are 14 in the world – Mount Ever­est is the high­est, and most fa­mous, but the other 13 are equally chal­leng­ing,” she said.

“Climb­ing an 8,000m moun­tain is the equiv­a­lent of com­pet­ing in the Olympics for moun­taineers.”

McGill works as a ge­ol­o­gist for an in­ter­na­tional com­pany and shares her time be­tween Johannesburg and Aus­tralia.

“It was only after I had com­mit­ted to climb [Mt Manaslu] that I re­alised that it had only been suc­cess­fully climbed by one other South African be­fore me, and if I sum­mited I would be the very first South African woman to do so,” she said.

She said it had not been an easy feat and she had had to train for half a decade be­fore set­ting foot near the moun­tain.

“I had ac­tu­ally been pre­par­ing for five years – or a life­time.

“I had done var­i­ous trips to moun­tains in South Amer­ica and Nepal de­vel­op­ing my skills.

“I had been over­seas for work and in 2011 I re­turned to South Africa. It was hard to re­group and I un­for­tu­nately spent most of my time on my couch.

“This meant by 2013 I was over 100kg,” she said.

“I de­cided that I wanted to get mov­ing and would set a goal – the 8,000m moun­tain.

“I at­tempted Manaslu in 2015 but un­for­tu­nately did not sum­mit due to bad weather and dan­ger­ous con­di­tions.

“I then de­cided this was im­por­tant to me and I once again re­grouped, put an­other plan to­gether and tried again.”

McGill said her train­ing in­volved walk­ing for nearly two hours to work with a back­pack, go­ing on week­end hikes and sleep­ing in a tent on her bed.

Al­though Manaslu was only the eighth-high­est moun­tain in the world, she said, it was more tech­ni­cally chal­leng­ing.

“The hard­est part of Manaslu is the por­tion of the moun­tain be­tween Camp One and Camp Two [which are] up to 6,400m [above sea level].

“There are lad­ders and there is the pos­si­bil­ity of large pieces of ice rock fall­ing down from higher on the moun­tain, so you have to be able to move quickly,” McGill said.

On Septem­ber 28, at about 1.30am, more than 8,000m up, she gave it a fi­nal push.

There were some emo­tional tears as she con­tem­plated the world from that lofty height, McGill said.

“I reached the true sum­mit of Manaslu at 9.15am – the first South African woman to sum­mit [it],” she said.

“I told my Sherpa, Pasang, to watch me care­fully as I wasn’t sure I would not fall off.”

Pasang passed her South African flag and her brain “re­gur­gi­tated blue at the bot­tom, yel­low on the right”, so as not to mess the pic­ture up.

“We took a few hur­ried pho­tos then re­treated along­side the [rest] of the pa­tiently wait­ing line,” McGill said.

“Long-term goals are achiev­able and I al­ways re­mem­ber: ‘How do you eat an ele­phant? One bite at a time.’ ”

SA FIRST: For­mer Bay woman Jean­nette McGill climbed 8,163m to sum­mit Mt Manaslu in Nepal

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