First black female Everest summiteer says it 'needed to be done'

Johannesburg (AFP) –


The business executive who became the first black African woman to climb Mount Everest said Wednesday that knowing her climb would be in the record books helped her push on

South African climber Saray Khumalo, 47, reached the peak of the 8,848-metre (29,029-foot) mountain last week after three previous failed bids to conquer the world's highest peak.

"Giving up is not an option," Khumalo told South African television from Kathmandu in Nepal.

"I was aware, taking on the project, that it was big and it needed to be done. I think that was one of the reasons I kept pushing, even after failing before."

Khumalo is on a quest to conquer the highest peaks on each continent.

She has also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Aconcagua in Argentina and Mount Elbrus in Russia.

"Summiting Everest or any other mountain from here on should be the norm because other people are doing it -- why not us?" she said in her first interview since her climb.

"It doesn't matter where you come from, or what curve ball has been thrown at you, keep going because the summit is just next door, it is just the next step."

One member of Khumalo's team -- Seamus Lawless from Ireland -- died on the descent.

"One life... is one too many," Khumalo said. "It is very unfortunate but it is the reality of climbing."

Khumalo said she had talked to her two sons, aged 16 and 21, about the dangers involved.

"They know I am not going to take risks that are unreasonable," she said.

"I took longer than anticipated (to come down). We didn't take a cell phone to the summit... so I only spoke to them when I got to base camp, but they were very happy."

Khumalo uses her expeditions to raise funds for libraries and support children's educational activities in Africa.

In 2003, South African park ranger Sibusiso Vilane became the first black person to summit Mount Everest.