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First all-Black American expedition to climb Mount Everest hopes to encourage next generation

Full Circle Everest.jpg
Posted at 9:55 AM, Sep 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-29 15:25:26-04

A group of all-Black climbers are on a path to history when they attempt to climb Mount Everest next year.

The group, Full Circle Everest, is made up of nine members and three reside in Colorado, including Eddie Taylor.

"If we can go and do these things and show that it’s possible, it’s going to change things," Taylor said.

The group is less than six months away from embarking on the most difficult journey of their lives. What’s at stake goes beyond the accomplishment of summiting Everest.

"There’s a lot of things in the outdoors that I think, again, Black people don’t see it as a place they could be. Everyone doesn’t see it as a place that Black people should be," said Taylor, a chemistry teacher and track coach at Centaurus High School in Lafayette.

Each member of the expedition is Black. Philip Henderson from Cortez is leading the way.

"There’s just a lack of representation in the outdoors among especially Black people, and I just happen to be one of very few Black people who have worked in the outdoor industry for a long time," Henderson said.

Henderson climbed Everest nearly a decade ago but never made it to the summit.

It’s a feat very few people of color have achieved. In fact, while more than 10,000 people have made it to the top, fewer than a dozen have been Black. Never has a Black American man reached the peak.

Henderson looks at this as a way to open doors.

"I think it’s very important for us to be visible. If we’re not visible, then younger people don’t even see it as an option to do some of the things that we do, and that could mean going for a hike in the park or climbing Mount Everest and everything in between that," Henderson said.

If the group makes it, they’ll be the largest all-Black expedition to conquer Everest, but history doesn’t come without its detractors. Many who saw KMGH’s initial Facebook post about this all-Black climbing attempt called it divisive and even racist in its exclusion of others.

It’s not stopping Henderson and the group from moving forward.

"I don't worry about that stuff. People are always going to think what they think, and until they actually sit down with us, sit down with me and have a conversation, then maybe they can kind of get the picture, but those people are always going to be there and I’m not going to waste my time on them," Henderson said.

Taylor believes the group could break the mold that’s been followed for centuries.

"When I leave Boulder, it's, 'Hey, what are you here for? Are you here for this diversity initiative? Is that why you're here? Have you been climbing?' You know what I mean? It’s kind of a weird dynamic. I think this Everest expedition, it's not only showing people of color that this is something possible, but it’s just showing everyone that it is possible. Black people enjoy climbing, Black people enjoy the outdoors. They enjoy the same things that everyone else gets from that," Taylor said.

The historic climb should be complete in May. If you'd like to donate to the group, click here.

This story was originally published by Gary Brode at KMGH.