For the first time ever, an all-Black team will attempt to scale all 29,032 feet of Mount Everest.
Most of the time when we see climbers smiling atop the summit, they are white or some other ethnicity than Black. Phil Henderson, who has been expanding the outdoor industry’s reach for decades, is hoping to change that, according to the Associated Press.
Next year, he will lead the nine-person Full Circle Everest Expedition team as it aims to be the first all-Black American team to summit the tallest mountain in the world.
An experienced climber, Henderson has led climbing expeditions in Nepal and South America. In addition to teaching at the National Outdoor Leadership School, he led an all African-American team to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Henderson is searching for financial sponsors to fund the expedition.
“It’s kind of emotional for me as well,” he says. “I’m realizing and living these things I’ve always said were so important and how it’s so vital for all of us to be connected to the natural environment.”
Here is a little on how Henderson got into climbing, according to AP:
The chemistry teacher and head track coach at Lafayette’s Centaurus High School began venturing into the outdoors as a young boy, going camping and skiing with his family. He was lucky, he says.
“Those are not traditionally things that families of color do,” he said.
A friend invited him to go rock climbing when he was a track star student at the University of Colorado. He’s been climbing ever since. And for many years now, he’s been shepherding friends and kids into the outdoors. Those invitations are “really important,” he says, “but there are only so many people of color who can invite other people of color to get outside.”
A Black-American man has not reached Mount Everest’s summit and only eight Black people have ever made it to the top of the mountain, climber Eddie Taylor told the AP. Sophia Danenberg was the first Black woman and Black American to reach the summit. Thousands of people attempt to climb the mountain each year and many have died over the years trying.
“We definitely hope this will have a lasting impact on our community,” says Taylor, who, like many Black mountaineers, notices the scarcity of people of color at his local rock crags and remote mountain trails. “Maybe this expedition can help change that.”