The first all-black exploration summit on Mount Everest

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On Thursday morning, seven climbers and eight Nepalese guides celebrated from the Full Circle Everest Expedition atop Mount Everest. Their successful ascent opens a new chapter in the 60-year history of the world’s highest peak. Full Circle is the first expedition to consist entirely of black climbers.

Expedition operator Jiban Ghmire of Shangri-La Nepal Treks, the manufacturer operating the expedition, emphasized the successful climb with Himalayan Times.

“The Full Circle Everest team led by Philip Henderson of California made history as the first all-black team to stand on top of the highest mountain on Earth,” he said.

Among the top parties was Manoah Inoue of Bozeman, Montana. Kenyan climber James Kagambi; Rosemary Sal of Seattle; Desmond “Dom” Mullins from New York City; Abby Dion of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Eddie Taylor of Boulder, Colorado; and Thomas Moore from Denver.

Henderson, who lives in Cortez, Colorado, did not climb, and instead led the climb from Base Camp. The ninth member of the team, Fred Campbell, returned from Seattle, Washington, before making it to the top. The team was still coming off the peak Thursday at the time of this report.

Henderson, a 30-year veteran of the outdoor industry and former instructor of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), spoke to the outside Before climbing about the importance of the expedition. He said the group formulated the idea to ascend Everest before the pandemic closed the mountain in 2020.

“We are climbers — we are people who love to be outside, and we happen to be black,” Henderson said. “We also know that we represent our communities.”

Henderson attempted to peak in 2012 but returned after falling ill. He also spent several months in Nepal training guides for mountain excursions. Prior to their 2012 expedition, he brought this team to the Khumbu Valley in January to meet our supportive Sherpa Guides.

Henderson told the team, “I want you to meet the people you work with, to see their homes and villages, to have a connection with the people you’re asking to put themselves in danger so you can say you’ve climbed a mountain.”

According to the group’s website, this year’s climb was inspired in part by the ethnic makeup of Everest climbers. After nearly 6,000 successful summits since the first ascent in 1953, only ten black climbers have stood over the summit before the Full Circle trek.

This disparity is echoed in the lopsided demographic statistics of outdoor activities, including visits to US national parks, biking, and rock climbing.

The group’s goal was to highlight the barriers that still exist for black communities to access the outdoors. According to its website, Full Circle Everest also wants to “inspire the next generation of colorful outdoor enthusiasts, educators, leaders, and mountaineers to continue chasing their personal peaks.”

Despite well-publicized efforts to increase inclusion and diversity, Henderson says progress has been slow.

“When I started working at NOLS in 1994, I was the first black American person to work there,” Henderson said. “In my job now, I’m the only black person working there, 30 years later – that’s the kind of burden I carry.”

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