Often the key fitness questions we would ask are around how to get our fitness up or how to get our legs toned just right. But these two women preparing to undertake the great climb of Mount Everest tell us what it takes to prepare for this momentous mountaineering journey.

Tumi Mphahlele and Alda Waddell are part of the very-first organised mountaineering team that will embark on a 141km hike this August in preparation of the Mount Everest climb in 2020. Apart from this preliminary climb, the pair tell us about how they have been preparing for the big climb next year.

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As part of a four-woman climbing team Alda says: “We are all very strong-willed, precipitant and passionate ladies. We are four very different personalities and that make it a great combination to draw from each other strengths.”

One of the “precipitant” women partaking is Tumi, who has a great athletic track record behind her and possesses key skills for this team. This is the pair’s individual preparatory journeys.

Mental and physical preparation

Tumi Mphahlele (TM): I do a combination of running, mountain biking and gym work about five times a week. I am also fitting in a few races to keep me motivated.

Mental preparation for me is about understanding as much as I can the nature of the challenge and what it will require from me. This means researching a lot, talking to people that have gone through the challenge (whether completed or not), and watching as much footage as I can get.

Alda Waddell (AW): Physically – I wake up every morning at 04:30 and in our estate there is a tower with 31 stairs up and down and try and do between 1600 and 2000 each day with some sit-ups and push-ups in between, every second evening I will also do a 8km walk at time.  Over weekends I do hiking trails as well as long walks. Seeing that we are preparing for Everest we always carry weight – I am currently at 8km – I will gradually step it up to about 15 – 20kgs.

Mentally – I read and watch anything that can add to knowledge of climbing, mountaineering and how to manage the cold weather.  

Diet

TM: I am not on a specific diet – I try and eat as healthy as I can just as a habit. Keeping fit and strong is a lifestyle for me and it is linked to the fact that I am a recreational athlete, and have events spread out through the year. So really no change to my diet strictly speaking.

AW: I don’t have a particular diet program at the moment and due to my time preparing I need more protein and fuel for my body. I try and avoid the sugar and takeaways as much possible.

Biggest challenges faced

TM: I think completing the 9 peak challenge will be the biggest challenge. It will be an intense 4 to 6 days, with limited sleep, cold temperatures and fatigue – no doubt we will be tested to the limits.

AW: My biggest challenge has been time and money. As a professional business woman and a single mother of 17-year-old twins, balancing time and money becomes tricky BUT where there is a will there is a way. I have learned so much and what a person is capable of when there is a focus and a BIG goal. 

Mountaineering motivation

“Our payoff line is courage to start, strength to endure and [I] think that is the best way to describe any challenge in life – just have the courage to start and then when you are going don’t give up – have the personal inner strength to endure until you reach your personal goal,” says Alda.

She adds, “I have met amazing inspiring people on the journey already and I am sure we will meet more as we progress. I have learned something from each person.” 

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Alda is inspired by the following people in her mountaineering journey: 

Lee Den Hond (RSA summit Everest and author of What happen when you say yes). “There is so much to do in this life; do it for a reason do it for a purpose. It’s the WHY you’re doing it, which leads you to the how and the ultimately across the line. Just say YES”.

Sibusiso Vilane (The first black African to climb Everest x2 plus many more accomplishments) “Every person has their own Everest to climb, whether you prepared for it or not it’s there to challenge you to reach the top.”  

Ronnie Muhl (Author of Everest: Surviving the Death Zone and public speaker. Summited Everest in 2007 North Side)

Saray Khumalo – The first black African woman to summit Everest in 2019 May. “Show the world that we can do what we want to do, when we want to do it and how we want to do it. We’re just as capable.”

Adrian Hayes – “What we achieve isn’t as important as who we become.”

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Tumi says, “My advice to other women who would like to one day climb Everest is to start small, build strength, confidence and skill over time and take every opportunity to work with other women and men in the field. Mountaineering is not a big popular sport and so it helps to be among a community of like-minded people to reach out to.”

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