From Goatherd to record-holding mountaineer - the story of Sibusiso VilaneMarch 2012
South African mountaineer and inspirational speaker Sibusiso Vilane is about to tackle a gruelling expedition to the North Pole, a proudly South African feat that once completed will make him the first Black person in the world to complete the Three Poles Challenge – an adventurer’s challenge to reach the North Pole, South Pole and Mount Everest.
Vilane’s expedition to the North Pole was made possible by Virgin Money Insurance.
Vilane believes that becoming the first Black person to complete this challenge will send a message of hope and motivation to others that they too can achieve exceptional things if they want to and are willing to grab the opportunities that are granted to them. “I would love to see other South Africans follow in my footsteps,” says Vilane.
In 2005, Vilane became the first Black person to successfully summit Everest from both sides. Sibusiso then embarked on The Seven Summits Quest to climb the highest mountains on each continent. After successfully completing this challenge, and becoming the first Black person in the world to do so, he and climbing partner Alex Harris became the first South Africans to walk to the South Pole, unsupported – another remarkable feat which won the duo the inaugural Solomon’s Adventurer of the Year, 2008.
Vilane was born at Shongwe Mission in rural Mpumalanga but at the age of four, relocated to the Kingdom of Swaziland with his late mother and younger sister. Living in desperate poverty, and with his mother grappling to support her children alone, Vilane was forced to start working as a cattle herder at the tender and vulnerable age of seven. His job, so vital to his family’s sustainability, prevented him from attending school until he was ten years old.
With his acute consciousness of his desperate situation grew a powerful desire to strive for more, to be better, and to have a better life.
“I never dreamed I would be “the first” to do anything in my life but now, I cannot live without an expedition. When I am not on an expedition, I am preparing for one or I am dreaming of expeditions to come. There are so many more challenges I strive to conquer. I think I would die of boredom if I couldn’t do them,” he says.
Vilane began climbing in 1996 when he was 26 years old, summiting peaks in the Drakensberg. In 1999 he climbed Kilimanjaro and went on to the Himalayas in 2002, successfully climbing Pokalde, Lobujé and Island Peak, all of which are over 6 000 metres high, as part of his training for the Everest expedition. Vilane recalls his earliest hikes, each one an important learning experience.
“In the beginning, I didn’t know what I was doing or what the joys of doing it were. But after a few climbs, I began to appreciate the beauty and the amazing sense of achievement that each big hike delivers. I started to recognise my own physical strength, determination and will power.
“All my mountains big and small have taught me valuable life lessons, one of them being that they must be respected. That’s because, like any problem and or hurdle in life, mountains big or small, can break you down. To me, there is no mountain that I would consider an easy ‘walk in the park’,” says Vilane, whose biggest obstacles in pursuing his quests are the weather and funding.
While he busily prepares for his expedition to the North Pole, Vilane admits that one of the hardest parts about doing expeditions, on par with battling the elements, is leaving his family in Nelspruit.
“I worry about my family and miss them terribly when I am away from home, particularly on long expeditions. Indeed, they worry about me too. Although my expedition to the North Pole will only be about two weeks, it is still hard for my family. My five year old daughter in particular finds it difficult to digest because to her, even an hour away from me is too long. I always return to a lot of questions from her and I am usually quite unpopular for a while,” he laughs.
He lists his 20 year marriage as one of his most significant achievements.
“By its own standards, being married for 20 years is an accomplishment. Watching my four children grow and spending as much time as I can with them is important to me,” says Vilane, who has three daughters and a son.
Vilane’s expedition to the North Pole will commence on 4 April 2012 and he will be on the ice of the Arctic Ocean until 13 April 2012. He describes this expedition as a dangerous physical endurance challenge as he will be walking on a frozen expanse of water which is melting. Polar bears are a constant threat too.
Vilane has never doubted his ability to complete The Three Pole Challenge. “Nothing can stop me from summiting them aside from the most adverse weather conditions. I have never entertained failure of any kind.”
Vilane believes that mountaineering is an inborn mental state. With regards to the physical preparation, Vilane trains hard to ensure that his body is ready and able for the challenges, from cross-country skiing to hauling 50kg sledges.
“We’re excited to be part of Vilane’s exceptional journey and to be able to sponsor him on the last leg of The Three Poles Challenge. We believe that he has the ability to pull it off and we’re behind him every step of the way,” says Telesure MD, Thomas Creamer.
NOTES TO EDITOR:
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO INTERVIEW SIBUSISO VILANE, PLEASE CONTACT JOLENE CHAIT ON 079 696 2468 OR E-MAIL firstname.lastname@example.org« Go back to press releases