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All-women mountaineering team sets sights on new 9 Peak Challenge record

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Two members of the first all-women team from Africa scheduled to climb Mt Everest in 2020 are attempting to complete the South African 9 Peaks Challenge in August this year –  covering 141km of hiking, 7,888m of vertical ascent, and 5,298km of driving – as the first women-only team to do it.

The 9 Peaks Challenge involves the ascent of the highest point of each province in South Africa, with strict adherence to set rules to successfully challenge a category record. The clock starts at the foot of the first peak and ends on the summit of the last. The ‘fastest known time for a female team’ category is unchallenged, and mountaineers Alda Waddell and Tumi Mphahlele plan to make their mark, starting on 22 August and taking between four and six days to complete it. The fastest time by a mixed pair was set in October 2018 by Jurgens and Christel Hanekom in 4 days, 18 hours, and 45 minutes.

The peaks are Iron Crown (2,126m) near Haenertsburg in Limpopo; De Berg (2,331m) near Lydenburg in Mpumalanga; Seweweekspoort Peak (2,325m) in the Groot Swartberg Nature Reserve in the Western Cape; Nooigedacht (1,816m), the highest point of the Magaliesberg in North West; Mafadi (3,451m) the highest peak in South Africa in the Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal; Toringkop (1,913m) in Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve in Gauteng; Kwaduma (3,019m) in the Drakensberg in the Eastern Cape; Namahadi (3,291m) in the Drakensberg in the Free State; and Murch Point (2,156m) in the Karoo in the Northern Cape.

The two intrepid women, who together with Lisa Gering and Deshun Deysel, all four from Johannesburg, are preparing to summit Everest in April and May 2020 to fulfil their dreams and to inspire young women entrepreneurs to have the ‘courage to start and the strength to endure’ – the motto of the Everest expedition.

Waddell says doing the 9 Peaks Challenge is in preparation of the #Everest2020 challenge. “It’s not an easy challenge and it is in many ways forcing Tumi and me to be focused and super fit. It’s also exciting as this is probably one of the best South African mountaineering challenges for endurance we can participate in. This Challenge will test our mental tenacity and physical endurance that we will need next year with the long days and nights in extreme cold weather. Endurance is what gets you to the top – just putting one foot in front of the other.”

Waddell (45) who works at BMW SA and describes herself as mother of 17-year-old twins, says her interest in mountaineering started in 2008 when she climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. “The entire journey of mountaineering is an adventure, from meeting new people and creating lifelong bonds, to the intensive planning and mental and physical preparation needed for each climb, and the extraordinary places I’ve visited and experienced.”

Tumi, director at IG3N and Amperion Energy, is a recreational endurance athlete with a keen interest in mountain sports. She has successfully climbed three of the seven global summits – Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Elbrus and Mt. Aconcagua – and has ambitions to complete the rest over the next few years. She has also summited other mountain peaks of varying altitudes in Africa and South America. She says that the idea of being the first all-women team from Africa to summit Everest gives her goosebumps. “It will be a dream come true. While I respect the mountains and recognise the risk and dangers associated with climbing Mount Everest, I do think that the success for the team and for the continent is worth the risk.”

Summiting the 9 Peaks in South Africa, and setting a record as the first all-women team to complete the challenge was her idea and in line with her abilities. “I have the mental and the physical strength, the fighting spirit and the temperament to attempt such a feat and stay the course. I have a strong work ethic and an ability to practice objectivity, even under intense pressure. I get fulfilment from achieving the goals that I set for myself.”

Completing the 9 Peaks Challenge will also increase awareness of the team’s Everest 2020 plans and contribute to securing sponsorship, which vital for the expedition as the full cost of the preparation climbs and the climb up Mt. Everest in 2020 for the four-women team is about R5 million.

Follow the women’s climbing progress and achievements on Facebook on Everest2020SA.

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