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A team of Black mountaineers is ready to reach new heights: the summit of Mt Everest. The Full Circle Everest Expedition team, an all-Black climbing group, is set to begin traversing the world’s highest mountain next year. 

Mountain climbing has long been a popular form of exercise and sport for White Americans, but Black communities have rarely entered such spaces. With the Full Circle Everest Expedition Team marking their territory, that’s all going to change.

“We just need more propulsion. We need more power,” said Phil Henderson, a Black mountain guide who teaches and trains others to summit and will lead the expedition. “This is our boost. We are priming that engine.”

Making history

Mr. Henderson has been mountaineering since college at the University of Colorado, where a friend first invited him to rock climb. He was born into a family of outdoor enthusiasts, which he notes is rare for families of color. “Those are not traditionally things that families of color do,” he said.

mt everest summit full circle

While Mt. Everest was first summited by White climbers in 1963, no team of Black men or women have ever reached the top. Meanwhile, the Full Circle Everest Expedition aims to make history as the first group of all-Black climbers to do so.

The first hurdle is in finding financial sponsors for the group. Summiting the top of the world’s highest mountain is an expensive adventure, and Mr. Henderson hopes that one key to success will be the financial resources provided by donors. 

He also dreams of more outdoor adventures for Black communities. Mr. Henderson is leaning into the outdoor community’s desire for more diversity in sport — and outdoor fun for families and young people. “From gardening to bird watching to climbing Everest, the sky is really the limit when it comes to people just getting outside and really understanding the benefits of spending time in nature,” Henderson says.

Erika Stone is a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Oklahoma, and a graduate assistant at Schusterman Library. A Chess Memorial Scholar, she has a B.A. in Psychology...

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