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