High altitude mountaineering in remote places has numerous challenges and risks, as John Black knows all too well. Having completed almost 30 high altitude expeditions globally, he is now preparing to summit Mount Vinson, the last of the highest mountains on each of the seven continents.
At 4,892m, Mount Vinson is the tallest mountain in Antarctica, the world’s coldest continent. John has had adventures that would make Indiana Jones blanch. He’s left footprints on Everest, Aconcagua and Ama Dablam, earning awards like Adventurer of the Year on more than one occasion. This particular expedition brings conclusion to a dream that John has held in his sights for almost 20 years, when he first vowed that he would complete a seven summit challenge, conquering the world’s tallest peaks.
While this is already an extraordinary challenge, John is also hoping to use the expedition to draw attention to, and raise funds for rhino conservation through the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT). The fundraising target is R250,000 and should this be reached prior to his departure, he will climb Mount Vinson in a rhino suit.
This isn’t the first time John has raised funds for rhinos. In 2013, he and his wife raised almost R100,000 for the cause when he ran the London marathon. This was the first time he donned his rhino suit, which weighed in at 13kg (incidentally, John will be wearing a different suit when he summits Mount Vinson). And in 2011, Trappers, of which John is a co-owner, raised R250,000 for rhino conservation with substantial support from franchisees and customers.
John says that he grew up in the bush, and returns to it as often as he can. He shares, “I find the assault on our rhinos to be unprecedented and unacceptable. As one of the most gracious animals, they need all the protection we can give them. Rhino poaching has reached crisis point. In 2007, we lost just 13 rhinos to poachers. By 2016, this figure had exceeded 1,050. More than 7,425 rhinos have been killed by poachers in a single decade.”
Although John has covered a significant portion of the Mount Vinson expedition costs (including flights, gear and the cost of retaining an operator, a necessity for the remoteness and inaccessibility of Mount Vinson), he has had great support from sponsors. Brands that have come on board include Suunto, The North Face, Petzl and Leatherman.
He adds, “I am hoping to raise R250,000 for the EWT and their rhino conversation using my expedition as a vehicle for this very important fund raising initiative. All donated funds will go to the EWT.”
John is leaving South Africa on 26 December 2017. The expedition can take up to approximately three to four weeks, dependent on the weather. John will be setting forth with three other team mates.
“Although I have experienced so many amazing moments as an adventurer, this is going to be one of the most meaningful,” he reflects. “Yes, it’s the realisation of a personal ambition – but to know that I am doing something for my country at the same time gives it a significance that will make summiting Mount Vinson a moment that lives on forever in my heart.”