Your first drink with Justin De Wet makes two things immediately clear: this is a man that likes a challenge, and this is a man that gets things done.
As the Senior Operations Manager at a little company you may know called Amazon, Justin is responsible for the customer experience of the North American continent. For this small challenge, he sets, directs and carries out his vision with the help of 600 employees at the upper echelon of global talent. While most people would clock out of a job like that and hit the beach or couch to round up their days – Justin prefers training for cold, icy, harsh summits.
The Seven Summits, to be exact, are: Kilimanjaro, Elbrus, Aconcagua, Denali, Vinson, Kosciuszko and Everest. Justin and his mates, Morkel, Peter, and Dan, have the Seven Summit Club inked into their bucket list, and based on the man’s track record – we’re backing him.
What started this journey for you?
“Since a young age I’ve always wanted to climb Mount Everest and Kilimanjaro. Growing up as a family we used to hike in the mountains around Cape Town. In 2014, I needed to take some leave and saw that some friends of mine, Peter, Dan and Morkel were climbing Kilimanjaro in 4 months time. I asked to join and it was a life-changing experience.”
Justin speaks determinedly about the challenge ahead of him. If there are talkers and doers in the world, his actions fix him firmly in the latter category – having already knocked off 2 of the 7 summits, Kilimanjaro (5,895 meters, Tanzania) in August 2014 and Elbrus (5,642m, Russia) in September 2015.
How challenging was your first summit on Kilimanjaro?
“I learnt a lot about myself on the summit night when we left around midnight and climbed through the night with headlights to reach the peak after dawn. You are challenged physically and mentally beyond what you think are your limits. Being in the beauty of nature outdoors and experiencing all the elements also really drives the desire to be on the mountains.”
Today, on the 6th of January 2017, Justin is leaving for Aconcagua (6,692m, Argentina), the 3rd of the summits on the list, and the 2nd highest of them all, falling short only to the mighty Everest which stands at 8,848 meters. We politely breezed over the hypothermia, frostbite and altitude sickness sections of Justin’s Aconcagua preparation pack to get to his itinerary (which begins after 6 weeks of training on the mountain). Justin and his team will ascend the 6,692 meters over 11 days, and follow the route: Pampa de Leñas (3,000) – Casa de Piedra (3,600) – Plaza Argentina Base Camp – Camp 1 (4.950) – Plaza Argentina Base Camp – Camp 1 (4.950) – Camp 2 (5,300) – Camp 3 (5,800) – Summit (6,962). 11 days of gruelling, boundary-pushing mountaineering that will, in its entirety, only bring Justin one step closer to the Seven Summit Club – bringing into perspective the scale and immensity of the feat he has set out to accomplish.
What set off the 7 summits idea?
“[After Kilimanjaro] we got the bug. Peter, Dan and myself decided we’d like to try climb the 7 summits – the 7 highest mountains on the 7 continents”
The casual nature in which Justin tells of how he embarked on the journey of a lifetime, as though he and the guys decided they’d like to try and get some pizza for lunch, affords those listening with the insight that the adventurous spirit of Justin isn’t forced. He isn’t pushing his soul to a space where it’s uncomfortable, he is totally comfortable with what others deem insane. His body is the one that’s continually uncomfortable, and he loves it.
As a Ker & Downey Africa ambassador, Justin will be sending us updates as and when he can, on his journey to the summit of Aconcagua (and having a drink with us when he returns). If you’d like to receive alerts and updates on Justin’s journey through the 7 Summits click here, or check in every few days at the blog on his progress.