Until now, only six Black mountaineers have reached the top of Mount Everest, according to reports from Outside Business Journal.
Now, one group is preparing to become the first all-Black team to summit the world’s highest mountain.
From his home in Cortez, Colorado, Philip Henderson hops on his weekly Zoom call. This team of experienced mountaineers is talking strategy, preparation and survival months before embarking on a historic climb. Early next spring, they hope to become the first all-Black team to summit Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain.
The crew, named Full Circle Everest, has grown to seven men and two women. They live all over the country from Florida, California, New York to Colorado, and they’re no strangers to the great outdoors.
Henderson will lead this expedition. At 58, he’s got 30 years of climbing experience and memorable expeditions under his belt.
Everest, which borders China and Nepal, reaches an elevation of 29,035 feet, which means living in the great outdoors in extremely high altitudes for several weeks.
“It’ll take approximately two months,” said Henderson. “An average day could be six, eight hours, 10 hours.”
He is training to be ready for every scenario, all while carrying 50 pounds of necessities.
“In some ways, I feel pressure of being the team leader,” said Henderson.
This mission is about more than just a team. They want to accomplish something much bigger: bringing awareness of outdoor sports to members of the Black and brown communities who may not see it as an option.
“I really feel like its representation and it’s like when you see people like yourself doing things, you’re more likely to do it,” said Henderson.
A study from Resources Report highlights that under representation. Black Americans only make up 1.2% of all visitors in national parks including hiking trails, while Latinos account for between 3.8 and 6.7%. Non-Hispanic whites make up between 88 and 95%.
Discrimination is also a factor. Black Americans were banned from certain public sites through segregation until the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Physical safety is another concern. In a 2018 study, 66% of Black participants say they associated certain forests, trails, and similar environments with slavery and lynching in the Jim Crow era.
Henderson is working to change those statistics through education, exposure and awareness, challenging his community and himself in a big way.
“To get all the voices that I know exist out there in the Black and brown community, so this isn’t uncommon,” he said.