Johannesburg - South Africa’s first all-women team to climb Mount Everest will soon be making their way to Nepal, fully dressed and prepared for the challenge that faces them.
Alda Waddel, Lisa Gering, Deshun Deysel and Tumi Mphahlele were presented with down suits made especially for them by active-clothing brand K-Way. The event was held on Friday in Ottery.
Gering, Deysel and Mphahlele hail from Johannesburg, while Waddel is from Pretoria.
Along with their climb organiser Ronnie Wuhl, the four climbers will head to Lukla in Nepal on April 1 and will then trek to their base camp, where they will spend nine to 10 days familiarising themselves with the region. From there it will take about two weeks to climb Everest.
Waddel said the biggest challenge of the expedition is money.
“It’s very expensive to climb Everest,” she said. “Just to be on the mountain, the permit cost of base camp is $12000 (about R180840).“
The four climbers went through intensive training to get them to work together. While the preparations have involved them working as a team, a part of it included being able to look after themselves individually.
“We did a big combination of training skills,” Waddel explained.
“We did a lot of rope and technical training because going through the ice wall you have to be able to hook yourself in and out of harnesses. Because you’re so tired and exhausted, it has to almost be muscle memory.
“A lot of rope work with us hooking in and out, abseiling, leading us to know that if you’re going to drop now, you’re on your own weight. You have to know what you’re doing.”
As part of their training, the climbers completed the Nine Peak Challenge, which involves ascending to the highest point of each province in South Africa. The climbers also travelled to Argentina to climb Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the world outside Asia.
“We did the Nine Peaks in eight days,” Waddel said. “We had to sleep on the mountain, we had to eat, make a plan. We did Aconcagua at 6000m for altitude training. The experience definitely helps.”
Each of the climbers’ new down suits weighs an average of just 2.7kg. Each suit features 850 fill-power goose down packed into 85 different chambers, while the outside of the suit is made from Pertex Endurance, an abrasion-resistant material designed for maximum weather protection.
According to Stephen Hector, technical product developer for K-Way, the suits are made of high-end down to ensure that they are as light as possible and can keep the climbers warm.
“The construction of specialised suits like these is key,” he said. “The design had to ensure there are no cold spots and that each segment operates like a box - a carefully calculated box. If you put too much down into one segment, the area will attract dead air and if you put too little down, you will get a cold spot.”
Wary of the life-threatening nature of the expedition, Waddel feels she is in the best space and time of her life to climb Everest.
“Five or six years ago, this would not have been possible,” she said.
“I think because I’ve known for two years, I’m well prepared. My kids are finishing school now, so they’re at an age where they understand.”