A team of nine black climbers is attempting to scale Mount Everest to tackle the mountain’s ‘intentional lack of access for black people’ and mountaineering’s ‘colonial history’.
The Full Circle Everest Expedition, which climbing leader Fred Campbell described as ‘the first all black and brown expedition to the highest place on earth’ in an Instagram video, is hoping to change the future of mountaineering.
The first two men to ever complete the climb to Mount Everest’s summit were Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, from Nepal, and Sir Edmund Hillary, from New Zealand, in 1953.
In fact, many people from the Sherpa community climb the mountain daily during peak season to carry heavy supplies for climbers, and outside of Nepal, ‘Sherpa’ has also become a name for mountain guides.
Since 1953, a total of 10,155 people have reached the towering mountain’s summit.
A team of nine black climbers dubbed the Full Circle Everest Expedition – which nods to the team’s efforts to highlight diversity in mountaineering – is attempting to scale Mount Everest to tackle the sport’s ‘colonial history’
Team leader, 58-year-old Philip Henderson, said that the project to be about ‘summiting Everest first’ and ‘everything else second’
According to a GoFundMe created for the expedition – which has surpassed its $150,000 goal – only eight black climbers of the 10,000 made it to the summit.
The Full Circle Everest Expedition team is hoping to add nine more to that figure with people from all over the world training to summit the world’s tallest mountain in the spring of 2022.
‘Everest is not the end goal, but just the beginning. Our expedition will reshape the narrative of the outdoors to one that is inclusive and where everyone belongs,’ a description on the GoFundMe read.
On Instagram, Manoah Ainuu, one of the athletes, said that ‘the main reason this is important: Historically, black and brown people haven’t been in these areas and environments, especially not on the highest point of the world’.
‘So we think this is an opportunity to be first in a lot of ways,’ he added.
Even the name of the expedition – Full Circle – speaks to the team’s efforts to highlight diversity in mountaineering, The Post reported.
Saal referenced Hillary – the first reach Mount Everest’s summit – and told The Post: ‘There’s been an intentional lack of access for Black people. When Hillary first summited [Everest], black people couldn’t even vote in this country.’
She also noted that national parks had only recently been desegregated. ‘This expedition is all about showing, “Yes, we can do this.”‘
Sir Edmund Hillary (left) and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay (right) were the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1953. Since, 10,155 people have reached the towering mountain’s summit and only eight of those people have been black
Mount Everest – the highest mountain above sea level – stands 29,032 feet tall in the Himalayas, which borders China and Nepal.
About 800 people attempt to climb Everest each year, although far fewer succeed due to the below-freezing temperatures and harrowing conditions that come with it.
There is even a ‘death zone, which begin at 26,247 feet when the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere drops 40 percent.
Because of the high altitudes, many skilled climbers spend several weeks making the trek to the summit.
Team leader, 58-year-old Philip Henderson, told The Washington Post that he is often the only black person in any of his mountaineering groups and therefore created the project to be about ‘summiting Everest first’ and ‘everything else second’.
The team, which is full of highly-qualified climbers, has already gained sponsorships from outdoor apparel companies such as The North Face, MSR Gear, Thermarest and Ramble Camp, among others.
Adina Scott of Seattle, Washington, has a PhD in electrical engineering and now works for the US Antarctic program, providing electronic support to scientists doing field work along the Arctic Peninsula, according to a bio on the Full Circle Everest Expedition’s website.
And Evan Green, from Albuquerque, New Mexico, is a freelance photographer and videographer specializing in the outdoor industry while Abby Dione of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has owned Coral Cliffs Climbing Gym since 2011.
The team is made up of highly-qualified people, including Demond ‘Dom’ Mullins, a combat veteran of the Iraq War, a US Senate staffer on veterans health and veteran climber after summiting Mount Kilimanjaro (19,341 ft) and Mount Kenya (17,057 ft)
Rosemary Saal, 28, is a field instructor at the National Outdoor Leadership School in Seattle, Washington, according to her LinkedIn profile and, in an Instagram post of the team, revealed that the expedition has been two years in the making.
‘That only perpetuates the stereotypes. It’s important to change the narrative.’
Meanwhile, other team members are no stranger to summiting. Demond ‘Dom’ Mullins is a combat veteran of the Iraq War, worked as a US Senate staffer on veterans health and has summited Mount Kilimanjaro (19,341 ft) and Mount Kenya (17,057 ft).
Fred Campbell, who is serving as the team’s climbing leader, has also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, plus in the Alaska Range, Sierra Madres in Mexico, the Bugaboos in Canada and the Cascades in Washington over the course of the past decade.
On Instagram, he showed off how he trains by running up stairs and ascending local hills in his home of Seattle, Washington.
How Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay were the first to ever summit Mount Everest
Sir Edmund Hillary, from New Zealand, and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, from Nepal, became the first people to ever to summit Mount Everest when they completed the mountain’s harrowing 29,032-foot climb on May 29, 1953.
Hillary, who was a 33-year-old beekeeper at the time, was paired up with Norgay as part of a British expedition to reach the summit.
The British, according to History.com, wanted to beat Sweden to the top of the mountain after Swiss climber Raymond Lambert – also accompanied by Norgay – reached 28,210 feet before turning back due to lack of supplies just a year earlier.
Hillary was selected out of the British Commonwealth and Norgay was chosen as one of the most experienced Sherpas in Nepal.
It took the duo seven weeks to reach the summit of Mount Everest – the highest point in the world.
At the time, Norgay was one of the most widely-known citizens of his Indian hill town of Darjeeling, which was home to many Sherpas, who made their living helping Westerners climb the Himalayas, according to The New Yorker.
Norgay’s accomplishment earned him a retirement from his decades-long career as a climber and catapulted him into stardom.
But in hindsight, the popular mountaineer said that he would never have made the historic climb had he known what would come out of it, the New Yorker reported in an article published in 1954.
But he still made a living off of the fame, even turning his Darjeeling home into a museum that was open daily from 10am to 4.30pm and was complete with his climbing gear, trophies and photographs of his adventures.
Norgay, who held Indian and Nepalese passports, identified himself as a Sherpa – or Tibetan – by trade. Sherpas so often helped Westerners to the Himalayan summits that the word became a name for mountain guides.
They are known to quickly adapt to higher altitudes, where oxygen levels are low.
Norgay was just that – a mountain guide who was described as ‘astonishingly excellent in courage and determination’ – when he ventured to the top of Mount Everest with Hillary.
After making the trek to the top of the mountain – and back down – Hunt was knighted and Norgay received the George Medal, which rewards acts of bravery in the UK.