Posted on June 26, 2012 / Comments Off / Show post tags
When Monde Sitole set out to summit the highest peak in North America in May, he was prepared for any extreme challenge. What he wasn’t ready for, however, was an all too common challenge common — lost luggage. After months of training and fundraising, the 21-year-old Khayelitsha resident, who plans to summit the seven peaks within the next four years, was unable to begin his expedition up Mount Denali in Alaska because an airline lost his backpack and some of his important climbing gear.
Luckily, climbing mountains — both physical and metaphorical — is something that the young alpinist is good at. Having already climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Elbrus in Russia, Sitole has taken the latest setback in his stride.
“My intent is much greater. I always say to people that my expedition is really a metaphor for young people; it is there to inspire that latent, intrinsic potential in them to dare to dream and to grab hold of their dreams no matter how small, big, or absurd they may seem.”
One of Sitole’s personal mottos is that the impossible exists because we do not strive to make it possible. Not surprisingly, then, he is already planning his next expedition: Aconcagua in Argentina. To do so, he will need to raise at least US$3 500 (R29 200) and put in many hours on the mountain.
To achieve the level of fitness and specific skills that he needs to tackle some of the highest mountains in the world, Sitole trains in the Matroosberg, Drakensberg and Groot Winterhoek mountains. He trains every weekend and, when he has the time, during the week, too.
Sitole’s passion for climbing has not gone unnoticed by those around him. In fact, it was requests from neighbourhood kids to accompany him on his weekend hikes that inspired Sitole to try and build an indoor rock-climbing wall in Khayelitsha.
“The kids that I see at the street corners are just letting life pass by. I want to provide an alternative and not just criticise from a safe distance.”
The rock-climbing wall is a project under Sitole’s NGO, African Ascents, which focuses on youth development through mountaineering and nature conservation. The NGO has already been running weekend camps for youngsters from Khayelitsha, and Sitole hopes to make the climbing wall a base for these programmes.
“We found that when kids are taught at school about nature conservation and global warming, they are only taught abstract statistics and rhetoric, nothing tangible,” he explained. “We found that when you give kids an experience, you really don’t need to say anything; something latent in them gets switched on. They realise that it is not just nature that is at risk, but also us. When we are saving nature, we are indirectly saving ourselves.”
Together with some of his sponsors — the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, First Ascent, and Microsoft — Sitole has managed to raise enough funds for the project and is currently trying to find land to make the project viable. Venture Forth mountaineering school will train the facilitators who will run the indoor wall.
While Sitole hopes that the wall will inspire in others a passion for climbing, he says that his ambitions for the wall are more holistic.
“The intent is to inspire them to expect much more from life and not to settle for second best. So, even if I don’t discover the next great alpinist through it — though it would be nice — it will still provide ambition and an alternative lifestyle to the present mediocrity.” © The Big Issue SA
If you want to get involved in Monde Sitole’s climbing wall, you can contact him via his website www.mondewalks.com, or follow him on Twitter @mondewalks