Not content with climbing the world’s highest peak, Monde Sitole wants others to reach theirs
Words: Dylan Muhlenberg | Photography: Nick Gordon
Having already summited Everest, Monde Sitole aims to complete his sophomore expedition without bottled oxygen.
The Superbalist 100’er has always lead an interesting life and, by daring to dream, he’s managed to live large and inspire those around him to do the same.
From being schooled aboard the SV Concordia to participating in the Mike Horn Pangaea Young Explorers Program, Monde is all about living life to the fullest and helping others to achieve their dreams.
When The Way of Us meets Monde he’s carrying his father’s baggage. Everything with Monde has a story, and after explaining how this bag was previously used by his MK war vet father, the 26-year-old adventurer shows off a second backpack made by friends of his, and says he’s carrying the township with him.
Despite travelling the world from a young age, Monde has always returned to the townships, and estimates that he’s lived in 30 different townships throughout his life. That's because it’s here that he wants to make his difference felt, with climbing being just one of the vehicles to do that.
Climbing for half his life now, Monde’s now ready to tackle the Seven Peaks Alpine style, starting with that pinnacle of human endeavour: Mount Everest.
“No fixed ropes. No oxygen. Non assisted. Not because I’m superhuman but because I need to climb the mountain as naturally as possible. It’s not just training to climb the mountain, it’s about mental training, too. Going to meetings, knocking on doors and having those doors shut on you makes you resilient.”
As far as fitness goes, Monde believes that hiking is the best form of exercise and his advice to those wanting to start out is to “start on a weekend and slowly accommodate it into your lifestyle. Make it more than an occasion. Mountains mean different things to different people. It’s not just about the ice axe and crevasses and sandstorms. Anyone can have fun on a mountain.”
Monde advises that we start in a group, because it needs to be fun, and that we should forget any Amercanised version we’ve seen in the movies. Remember to stay humble.
“Mountains have been there since the beginning, and people have been climbing them since they had ancient names. We need to go back to basics and do simple things like climbing mountains because it stimulates not only your body but your mind as well. When climbing you explore not just the mountain but yourself. You get to introspect. You get to see things from a different perspective. You realise how small you are. And it’s not just climbing, wandering and exploring, but the people you meet along the way.”
What about fear?
“There are things that scare me more. Like wasting my life. Fear is where you find the truest version of yourself. That’s what I’ve found in the mountain and what I want to impart. So when you give young people an experience there’s little that you need to say because instead something dormant gets switched on.”
Monde has never worked in the traditional sense of the word, or even submitted a CV. He calls himself a “disruptor” and “educational futurist” whose main goal is to touch people. He’s connected elite private schools with township schools in order to come up with solutions for the youth by the youth. He’s started programmes to combat township problems using positive solutions. He wants to give others the chances he’s had.
“What’s happening in the township, you think people are having fun, but people are desensitised. Young people who just want to drink everyday, so I tell them, ‘why not start an events company?’ I figured if a kid is good at stabbing people, why not try fencing, or if you’re good at climbing over other people’s walls, why not try rock climbing? You need to be strategic about this.”
Monde’s outreach program, The Desert Rose Adventure Club, has branches in Philippi, Gugulethu and Khayelitsha, and introduces kids to climbing by exposing them to climbing walls, taking them on hikes and aligning with the Mountain Club of South Africa and South African National Parks.
The chopped off tip of his pinkie-finger hints at Monde’s heritage, and having recently returned home, Monde says that he now wants to be based where his spirit is, commenting on his nomadic habits by saying that “not all who wander are lost…”
“I’m a connector. Wherever I go I make new contacts and introduce them to my other contacts. My grandfather owned land that I bought back and we’re going to build an all-girls primary school, a community library and our next school initiative, an advanced research lab... All in Lady Frere, Queenstown.”
Lady Frere has more than 21 villages and not a single library, but there’s a lot of opportunity and the people living there are hungry for change.
“For most of us, the Eastern Cape is this place that we only visit in December. We talk about wanting land, and there’s so much there in the Eastern Cape. The township is claustrophobic – I’m done. We’re so hypocritical. We talk about wanting change but unless we approach our challenges with the imperativeness that the soul desires, we’ll always be wishing upon shooting stars and building sandcastles. I’m not learning, I’m unlearning and will always come back to education. That it needs to eradicate poverty and empower.”
Like Monde says, “It’s not the mountain you conquer, but yourself.”