The First All-Black Team Will Climb Mount Everest Next Year
By scaling the 29,032-foot-peak, Full Circle Everest hopes to empower people of color to explore the outdoors.
Only 10 Black people have ever stood atop Mount Everest — none of them Americans. In 2022, Full Circle Everest plans to change that.
The all-Black team is made up of nine experienced mountaineers, seven men and two women. Their name is inspired by the fact that the first American expedition reached the summit of Mount Everest in 1963, the same year Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his historic “I Have a Dream” speech. The team considers their expedition 40 years later to be a full-circle moment.
But it’s about more than the thrill of achievement.
“There is a lack of representation of Black people in mountaineering and in high-altitude mountaineering," team leader Phil Henderson told NPR. “There's so few of us at this level that it's our duty, in a sense, to bring this to our communities, to our young people and talk about the benefits of being outdoors and connecting with nature and having a healthy lifestyle throughout their lives."
Black Americans are dramatically underrepresented in the numbers of people who visit public lands, making up 1 to 1.2 percent of visitors to national forests, national wildlife refuges, and national parks. There are many reasons for that, including historic discrimination in public spaces and the fact that communities of color are nearly four times more likely to lack access to nature than white communities.
Members of Full Circle Everest are veterans of the outdoors, with decades as outdoor educators, climbing coaches, and mountaineers boasting experience scaling peaks from Mount Denali to Mount Kilimanjaro.
Even still, Mount Everest is its own challenge. Hundreds of people have died in their quest to climb the 29,032-foot peak. The trek requires months spent at altitude, far away from family and friends. And it’s expensive. Full Circle Everest has already secured several sponsors and is on the search for more.
As the team trains for this monumental challenge, a book and a movie have been proposed to profile the expedition and the hard work required to get there.
If all goes to plan, 2022 will mark a historic moment for mountaineering.