Sibusiso Vilane was born at Shongwe Mission, formerly in Kangwane homeland, now Mpumalanga. He began his working career as a game ranger in Swaziland in 1993. In 1996 he met John Doble who became a great friend and benefactor, and who was instrumental in finding the necessary sponsorship for Sibusiso’s Everest summit expedition.
Sibusiso Vilane started climbing in 1996 by summiting peaks in the Drakensberg. In 1999 he summitted 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.
In March 2003, Sibusiso Vilane set off for the Himalayas again in his quest to be the first black African to summit earth’s largest and most fearsome mountain, Everest, the Queen of the Himalayas. He summitted successfully on 26 May 2003.
On that day, South African President Thabo Mbeki congratulated him on his achievement and grit. “In this, he has shown the heights we can all scale in life if we put our shoulder to the wheel and work at things without flagging. Sibusiso, you have done us proud!” (In 2006 Sibusisowas awarded the Order of Ikhamanga (Bronze) by President Thabo Mbeki. Technically he can sign his name ‘Sibusiso Vilane, OIB’.)
In 2005 Sibusiso Vilane reached the summit of Everest again with Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Alex Harris after accessing the peak from the North Ridge – the more difficult and statistically less-successful side. This achievement meant that he is the first black African to climb the world’s highest peak twice and by two different routes. Three children’s charities benefitted from his climb: The Birth to Twenty Research Programme at Wits University, the Africa Foundation and the SOS Children’s Village in Swaziland.
Sibusiso Vilane set out to become one of the few South Africans to be members of the Seven Summits club. There are just six South Africans amidst the 198 members. The Seven Summits are the seven highest peaks on each of the seven continents.
- Kilimanjaro (Africa) 1999
- Everest (Asia) 2003, 2005
- Aconcagua (South America) 2006
- Elbrus (Europe) 2006
- Carstensz Pyramid (Oceania) 2006
- Vinson (Antarctica) 2006
- Denali/McKinley (North America) 2007, summitted 2008
On 17 January 2008, Sibusiso and his Team Extreme partner, Alex Harris, became the first South Africans to walk to the South Pole completely unassisted.
Sibusiso’s irrepressible spirit and infectious enthusiasm for life inspires and uplifts people of all backgrounds and circumstances, and especially children. As a professional speaker, his message is simple: every person has their own “Everest” to climb. Whether you’re prepared for it or not, it’s there – challenging you to reach the top. And if he can do that in the most dangerous and inhospitable of conditions and against all the odds so, he suggests, can you.