As South African Sibusiso Vilane awaits a window to summit Mount Everest for the third time—this attempt without oxygen—he wants the world to know something: We need more black mountaineers.
Vilane was born in 1970 in rural South Africa. When he was four years old, he moved with his family to Swaziland, a small landlocked monarchy that borders South Africa and Mozambique. He didn’t get his first pair of shoes until he was ten. He went to school for the first time at 11. While his stepfather helped to pay for his early schooling, Vilane needed to support himself by the time he reached high school. He began doing yard work for an expat Canadian couple, and they put him through high school, giving him the education he needed to qualify for game-ranger training. In 1993, Vilane was hired to work in Swaziland’s mountainous Malolotja Nature Reserve, a 44,500-acre wilderness area filled with leopard, zebra, and wildebeest. There, in 1996, his life changed.