Adventurous Vanes-Mari: ‘You looked death in the eye’


For Vanes-Mari du Toit, her recent adventure in the Himalayas with the Madswimmer team was so much more than just a successful world record attempt… or itself to put the spotlight on global warming.

Because between the rocks, untouched nature, ice and freezing weather conditions, the former Protea netball star and talented sports presenter also learned lessons that she will make part of her life forever.

After all, the Himalayas are not your playmate: Dizzying heights, rockfalls, frostbite and mountain sickness lurk around every corner.

But – to quote a somewhat hackneyed saying – you grow the most when you are outside your comfort zone.

“You looked death in the eye, as it were,” Du Toit admitted to RNews.

The expedition members had to go up the mountain and in one of these tough climbing sessions, her foot did not get a good foothold and she slipped down for a few terrifying moments.

Where most of us would look back on this event in horror, Du Toit considers it a positive experience.

“I now have a greater appreciation for the things that matter in life. Everyone has a mountain in his or her own life that needs to be climbed. Yes, the height may intimidate you, but all you can do is put one foot in front of the other and keep moving.”

Fortunately, she was aware beforehand of all the risks associated with an adventure in the Himalayas.

To improve the high swimming record they had to climb to 6,405 m above sea level. It is higher than Kilimanjaro (5,895 m) and Everest’s base camp (5,364 m).

“We were moving at 50% of normal oxygen levels and at the same time the snow demands an incredible amount from you – we are simply not used to it. Then mountain sickness can strike anyone; regardless of your fitness.”

Frostbite also caused her nose to start discolouring.

“I had to make peace with death and I cried a lot at the airport. This could be the last time I see my family,” she says seriously.

However, her characteristic smile is quickly back and she jokes that she opened her most expensive bottle of wine (and whiskey) before she left.

Needless to say, she is also very happy with the world record success.

“I always joke that maybe South Africa didn’t necessarily want to show off this record. But we have him in the bag and I am very proud that we can write another South African world record in the history books.”

There among the clouds, members of the Madswimmer team braved the cold in ordinary bathing suits. According to Du Toit, however, it was “warmer” in the water than outside.

“Wow, that’s a definite head move you have to make to get in, but when you get out again, your swimsuit starts to freeze to your body.”

Will she do it again?

“I initially said no to the whole expedition. But I have learned so many values ​​and life lessons that I will definitely say yes if I get an opportunity like this again.”

In addition, she no longer struggles with fear of heights.