Posted on January 6, 2022

Black American Climbers Attempt to Scale Mount Everest to Tackle the Peak’s ‘Intentional Lack of Access for Black People

Shannon Thaler, Daily Mail, January 3, 2022

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.

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.”‘

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.

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.

She told The Post of why she chose to join the team: ‘I hear “black people don’t do that” all the time when I talk about my climbing.

‘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.