Full Circle Everest: All-Black group makes history by summiting Mount Everest

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(CNN) – About 4,000 people have summited Mount Everest, The world’s highest peak. And only eight of them are black.

One of the reasons is that a group of black climbers and mountaineers formed a full circle.

“It’s a campaign that’s definitely about climbing. It’s about spending time in the mountains, but it’s also about building a community, a global community. And that’s for the black community, especially in the United States and how we are a full circle member Contact with that outdoor spaces.

Sal is used to measure literal and figurative heights. She was a member of the All-Black team that hiked Denali in Alaska and reached the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.

But being part of the full circle, she says, is different. The mountaineering community is relatively small, and Everest is a name that almost everyone in the world can recognize.

“This mountain attracts attention,” says another full circle member, Abby Dion.

Dion lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she owns and operates the Coral Cliffs Climbing Gym. As one of only two black women to own a climbing gym in the United States, she is passionate about giving women of color ways to see themselves outdoors.

“The goal (of the full circle) is to obscure the process,” says Dion. “Regardless of the mountain in question, the real goal for us is about reverse engineering things for people.”

Full circle team, consisting of Sal (front) and Dion (middle row, right).

Full circle team, consisting of Sal (front) and Dion (middle row, right).

Full circle Everest

On May 12, seven members of the full circle group, including both Dion and Sal, successfully reached the summit of Mount Everest.

“The Full Circle Everest team, led by Philip Henderson of California, has made history as the first all-black team to stand on the summit of the highest mountain in the world,” confirmed Jiban Ghimire, managing director of Shangri-La Nepal Treks. Himalayan Times.

In addition to Dion and Sal, the top climbers are Manoah Ainu, Frederick Campbell, Eddie Taylor, James Kagambi, Desmond Mullins, Thomas Moore and eight Sherpa guides. Henderson led the team from base camp but did not attempt the summit himself.

The mountain is a metaphor

An important element of the work of the full circle is the respect shown to the local Nepalis and the Sherpas who come with their ascending groups.

Take the most famous Everest climb, for example – it was Sir Edmund Hillary who drew the lion’s attention in 1953 by not including the name of his Sherpa mentor and colleague Tenzing Norgay in the record book for decades.

In addition, Hillary is known to be the first person to climb Mount Everest, despite numerous reports of Sherpas reaching the highest peaks before foreigners ever set foot in the country.

Dion notes that the purpose of the full circle is to “de-colonize” Everest. It’s not just about increasing the visibility of color mountaineers but also about using inclusive language.

“Our goal here is to help people who want to have a deep and respectful relationship with outsiders Entitled For her, but Welcome If you see that it can happen, you can do it right.

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Sal, who is biracial, says some of the first people to push back her childhood interest in sports and outdoor spaces were in her own community.

“When I was younger, I did my first rock climbing course, mountaineering courses, whatever. I would tell family members or friends or just different people in my life about what I was doing. And immediately it was like, ‘ Oh, black people don. Don’t do that. That’s your white side. Black people don’t ski. Black people don’t climb. “

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Luckily, there were community groups in her hometown of Seattle that helped the young Sal follow her interests. In those groups, she saw teachers from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, and they helped calm the voices that told her it could not be done.

For Dion, there were additional questions about outside women for which she could not find good answers.

“What is it like to menstruate at an altitude of 6,000 meters and above?” She asks aloud.

Hero’s trip

Both women cite Phil Henderson, the founder of Full Circle, as their main inspiration.

Henderson’s nickname is Uncle Phil, the character who guided Will on “The Fresh Prince of Bell-Air.”

And his avuncular nickname earns well. Henderson, a native of California, has been a leader in the suburbs for black men and women. He has led an all-black climbing team to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro and has been a longtime instructor at the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in Wyoming.

Full members of the circle hike in less icy weather.  Henderson is in the middle row, far right.

Full members of the circle hike in less icy weather. Henderson is in the middle row, far right.

Full circle Everest

Like many young black men, Henderson was encouraged to participate in team sports. He excelled in football, but the injury put an end to his NFL dreams. From there, he turned to the love of outdoor sports.

In 2000, Henderson led an all-black climbing group to the top of Mount Kenya. The experience was transformative – it was not just a literal adventure but a new generation of black outdoor experts.

“Black people are represented in the mountaineering, climbing and outdoor industries as a whole,” he wrote on Instagram, “but our stories have not been told.”

He is the only member of the team with previous experience of Everest: In 2012, Henderson was the only black member of the American climbing expedition to the world’s highest peak, known by his traditional Tibetan name Chomolungma.

Starting the journey

A group of nine climbers arrived in Nepal in January 2022 to begin the process of height adaptation.

If all members of the full circle completed their ascent, the number of black people reaching the summit of Mount Everest would immediately double.

The cost of climbing the world’s highest peak can be prohibitive.

Full Circle Everest now has a group of corporate sponsors, including North Face, Summit Coffee, Smartwool and Mountain Safety Research (MSR).

But the cost of blazing a trail is priceless.

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