Women's Sports: Saray Khumalo becomes the first black African woman to reach the South Pole

The start of 2020 was extra special for one adventurer. At around 3 am on 1 January 2020, Saray Khumalo became the first black African woman to reach the South Pole.

Khumalo, 49, is a South African explorer. She set off for Antarctica on 21 December and started her ski of the Last Degree on Christmas Eve.   

The Last Degree is the final 60 nautical miles to reach the Geographical South Pole.

She shared the news on her Facebook page saying: “Happy new year good people…I made it! Am at the South Pole. Here is to an amazing 2020 and beyond. Let’s keep stepping.”

For Khumalo, reaching the south pole marks the latest achievement required of her mission to complete the Explorer Grand Slam. This is when an explorer reaches the North and South Poles and climbs the highest peak of all seven continents. 

In May 2019, Khumalo reached the summit of Mount Everest, becoming the first black African woman to do so. It was her fourth attempt to reach the top of the world’s highest peak.

From the South Pole, Khumalo is going to climb the Vinson Massive, to tick off another of the seven peaks that form part of the Explorer Grand Slam.

She has already summited Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, Aconcagua, South America’s, and Mount Elbrus, the highest in Europe.

Her expeditions are not only to break records. Khumalo fundraises for the education of underprivileged children in South Africa. She is currently raising money for the Regenesys Foundation and Champions for Education who will provide higher education to young people who aren’t able to afford it. 

Barbara Hillary, who died on 23 November 2019, was the first African American to reach both the North and South Poles and the first black woman to reach both.

Hillary was 75 when she reached the North Pole and 79, the South Pole in 2011. Remarkably, she achieved this after having undergone surgery for lung cancer aged 67 that had reduced her lung capacity.

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