More than 6,000 thrill-seekers have summitted Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth at 29,032 feet of elevation. Fewer than 10 of those climbers have been Black.
This spring, an all-Black team called Full Circle Everest is striving to change that. The 11-person group, set to embark for Mount Everest next month, includes a high school science teacher, an Iraq War veteran and a small-business owner. They’re from all across the U.S. — except for one, who’s from Kenya.
Their goal: Promote racial equity in the great outdoors by summitting Mount Everest.
“We’re showing up to basecamp as 10-plus Black folks, supporting each other… To be able to show up and represent in that way is huge,” Rosemary Saal, one of two women on the Full Circle Everest team, told CNBC’s “The News With Shepard Smith” earlier this month. “I do feel very honored to be representing on this team as a young biracial woman, seeking to climb this mountain.”
The group’s odds of succeeding are strong: According to one member, all 11 of them have plenty of climbing skill. “Phil [Henderson], the team leader, put together a really competent team. Everyone has a lot of skills and abilities in the outdoors,” Eddie Taylor, a member of the expedition with 10 years of informal climbing experience, told the CNBC show.
The climbers spent months preparing, building endurance through activities like hiking, running and weight lifting. Saal said they even took a trip overseas to train in Nepal this past February, doing some local climbing and meeting the Sherpa team set to help them up Mount Everest next month.
Attempting to summit Mount Everest is neither easy nor safe. At least 280 people have died on the mountain, according to a 2019 BBC article.
But Taylor said the most daunting challenge so far has been money. “It can range from $40,000 to $150,000 per climber, and that’s just what you’re paying the outfitting company,” Taylor said. “That doesn’t include your gear, insurance, flights, all those other types of things.”
At first, Taylor said, the climbers struggled to raise cash. Then, they received more than $160,000 in donations through a GoFundMe campaign. Community donations and funding from sponsors like North Face and the VF Foundation pushed that figure above $500,000, according to PBS News.
Taylor said the group now has the money it needs to make the climb. His hope, he noted, is that summitting Mount Everest can help affirm for young people of color that outdoor activities belong to everyone.
“There’s a few things that I hope that young kids get out of it,” he said. “One, that anything’s possible. Two, that they can pick a goal and they can achieve it. And three, that these outdoor spaces are meant for them.”