One would think that for somebody with a history in skincare, the harsh sun and freezing temperatures will be a no-no. Well, then all that is left to say is that Marlette de Jager sure is full of surprises.
Also known as Molly and the Mountains, she has climbed six of the seven summits, with Mt Vinson in Antarctica still left. Our conversation kicked off with tell us about your childhood, and one of the first memories she recalled is growing up in Natal and the fact that she recently found a school report that stated ‘Marlette doesn’t show much interest in physical activity’.
‘I had a real chuckle to myself because it is true. School sport didn’t interest me. Being out in nature, however, did, and still does. So I spent much of my childhood climbing trees, riding horses and being active.
‘My best times alone are those I spend walking in nature.’
She lives in Eye of Africa, where she loves to ride her mountain bike and hike. Riding at Thaba Trails and Rietvlei also makes for great memories of cycling around the south with the DOCS group and other friends.
When asked if there is something people don’t know about her, she shared her love for riding a motorbike.
‘I feel great freedom on a motorbike. It is exhilarating. However, I also love to relax by baking. Something really quirky about me is that I have three black cats that I take for walks – much to the amusement of my neighbours.’
Marlette is the regional manager for Sorbet and works mostly in Cape Town.
‘I have a long history in the skincare industry. I have studied and worked as a therapist, had my salon and have now been with Sorbet since 2017. They support my climbing goals and without hesitation gave me two months off work for the Everest expedition.
Molly and the mountains
One can’t help but ask where the name Molly comes from.
‘I am hardly ever called by my full name, Marlette. Molly is a nickname that has just stuck for my adult life, so I barely even introduce myself as Marlette.
‘When I was looking for a name for my website it became Molly and the Mountains to describe my journeys in the world’s highest places.
‘I have climbed six of the seven summits. My first was Kilimanjaro in 2000.
Ten years later I climbed Mt Elbrus in Russia and then the climbing became more frequent.
‘I attempted Mt Aconcagua in 2013, but the weather turned us around; we returned to the summit in 2014. A few months later I climbed Denali too. In 2015 a group of us went climbing Everest, but we were in an earthquake and avalanche, which led to the mountain being closed that year.
‘It took me a while to get over that and reset my life, but in 2019 I climbed the Carstensz Pyramid and after my close friends had climbed Everest, I was re-inspired to go back. It did also take a benefactor who gifted me the hefty sum of $45 000 (approximately R660 700) to afford going back to climb.’
Marlette is most inspired by her climbing partner, Wilmien, who climbed Aconcagua and Denali with her and summited Everest in 2017.
‘She is humble and shared all her knowledge and experience with me with no hidden agenda.’
Being on a summit, watching the sunrise and sunset from high peaks, are moments she will always treasure.
‘On Everest I was standing on the mountain before the Hillary step, watching the sunrise to my right, I was way above the clouds and other mountain peaks when on my left the shadow of Everest was a black pyramid over other smaller peaks. It was magnificent.
‘Then is also the time spent laughing with friends on trips that makes for wonderful memories.’
What does she remember about her first climb?
‘After Kili, I remember wanting to experience something that epic again. So it really was the starting point of my desire and journey to climb other mountains.’
And her favourite climb of all times?
‘Denali was my favourite because it was really beautiful and challenging but mostly because of the people I did it with.’
Preparing for such climbs must be physical and there must be a certain mindset before you start your journey?
‘Preparation is very important. You have to be physically, mentally and emotionally fit to climb Everest. So I’ve been disciplined about my routine, training and sacrificing time to be strong enough to climb Everest. I was training six days a week before I went.
‘For me giving up, unless it is going to kill me, is not an option. I’m driven to always complete what I started, to achieve my goal. That is more of a driving force than pain and suffering motivating me not to stop.’
However, for now, she would like to just live a normal life, cutting herself some slack on pushing hard for a tough goal. Right now she wants to enjoy life and special people.
‘I will still climb Mt Vinson but I have no timeline in place.’
Like so many others, Covid-19 impacted her life and especially her plan to climb Everest last year.
‘Although it changed my plans, I was quite pleased to have another year to train. I used the time in lockdown to exercise at home and get fit.
‘I view Covid the same as most of life’s challenges, not to stress about external circumstances that you can’t change, be adaptable and try to find the positives in it.’
Marlette is also a professional speaker. In 2013 she had just climbed her fourth summit and a company she used to work for asked her to speak at one of their functions.
‘I have been speaking and sharing my story ever since. It is a story of success and failure, highs and lows, something everyone experiences in life.
‘I have been through many things people have been through. Divorce, loss and pain. If my story can inspire others to aspire to reach their goals, then that is something that makes me happy. People need more inspiration because times are tough, challenges are more and people around us are more negative. So people certainly need hope and inspiration more than ever.
‘Something that should not be forgotten is that resilience is not forged in a singular momentous event. It takes multiple small events that you are, one, willing to be stretched in, and two, don’t quit.
‘If you are resilient in lots of small things, physically, mentally and emotionally, you will be resilient when it really matters in a life-changing event.’
* Text: CARINA VAN DER WALT. Photo: ROEDOLF WALKER.