THE FIRST ALL-BLACK EXPEDITION TO THE TOP OF MOUNT EVEREST MARKS A MILESTONE IN HIGH-ALTITUDE MOUNTAINEERING THAT PROMISES TO ENDURE.
Just after sunrise, Denverite Thomas Moore makes the summit push to the world’s highest peak at 29,032 feet. SUMMIT PHOTO BY EVAN GREEN
AS THE FIRST EVEREST EXPEDITION ORCHESTRATED AND EXECUTED BY PEOPLE OF COLOR, IT ALSO MARKS ANOTHER STEP FORWARD IN THE WORLDWIDE ADVANCEMENT OF RACIAL DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND INCLUSION.
Adina Scott provided logistical support from Base Camp. PHOTO BY EVAN GREEN
IN THE SPRING OF 2022, an all-Black team of climbers reached the summit of the highest peak in the world. Called the Full Circle Everest Expedition (fullcircleeverest.com), this group of eight men and two women, each of African descent, including a native of Kenya, achieved a goal that has eluded the mountaineering community for nearly seven decades. Organized and led by veteran outdoor educator and mountaineer Philip Henderson (whose home base is Cortez, Colo.), this monumental achievement to climb Mount Everest stands as a unique experience that will likely inspire young adventurers for generations yet to come.
Taking a moment to reflect at a memorial at Thukla Pass en route to Base Camp. PHOTO BY EVAN GREEN
As a chemistry teacher at Centaurus High School in Lafayette, Eddie Taylor understands the value of role models when it comes to encouraging young people. His accomplishment—to have stood on top of Everest—can serve to illustrate for his students what can be achieved through dedication and perseverance.
Eddie Taylor crossing a crevasse via ladder bridge in the ice fall. PHOTO BY EVAN GREEN
“Most kids aren’t going to make it to the NBA, but they know that it’s possible. They know that if they work hard and they train hard, that’s an attainable goal,” Taylor says. “This is much the same thing. It just raises that ceiling and gives you more of a sense of what could be possible. Even if you’re never going to climb Everest, it’s OK. You can go climb the high point in your state. Whatever it is, you can do it.”
Descending from the south summit on fixed lines. PHOTO BY EVAN GREEN
As the first Everest expedition orchestrated and executed by people of color, it also marks another step forward in the worldwide advancement of racial diversity, equity and inclusion. The expedition nearly doubled the number of Black climbers to have achieved this lofty goal. Even in a part of the country that’s surrounded by mountains, Taylor says that such a high-profile event opens new opportunities through which others in marginalized communities might follow.
Team members and their supporters at Base Camp. PHOTO BY JAMES EDWARD MILLS
“I GET A NEW SET OF 160 KIDS A YEAR, AND I SEE HOW SCARED THEY ARE OF FAILURE—HOW AFRAID THEY ARE OF SETTING BIG GOALS AND BIG HOPES. BUT I SEE IT’S CHANGING.”–EDDIE TAYLOR, COLORADO TEACHER AND EXPEDITION MEMBER
“Over the last year, especially, I’ve gotten to the point where a lot of people want to climb with me,” Taylor says. “And I have definitely prioritized people of color and people who haven’t had those opportunities and experiences I have. That’s been so rewarding to both build my skills and mentor others.”
Taylor says that working collectively as a team toward a goal for the benefit of the community has a much greater impact than the solitary achievement of a single person. The Full Circle Everest team has demonstrated the inherent value in creating a supportive and productive environment in which everyone is likely to succeed. Through his work as a teacher and track coach, Taylor knows that young people especially need the guidance and encouragement of conscientious leaders to set and achieve even the most ambitious objectives.
“I get a new set of 160 kids a year, and I see how scared they are of failure—how afraid they are of setting big goals and big hopes. But I see it’s changing,” Taylor says. “It doesn’t have to be climbing a mountain. We want kids to do things that are hard, that push them so then they can be successful as adults.
Team members who summited Mount Everest include James “KG” Kagambi. PHOTO COURTESY OF FULL CIRCLE
Demond “Dom” Mullins. PHOTO COURTESY OF FULL CIRCLE
Thomas Moore. PHOTO COURTESY OF FULL CIRCLE
Rosemary Saal. PHOTO COURTESY OF FULL CIRCLE
Evan Green. PHOTO COURTESY OF FULL CIRCLE
Eddie Taylor. PHOTO COURTESY OF FULL CIRCLE
Manoah Ainuu. PHOTO COURTESY OF FULL CIRCLE
Philip Henderson. PHOTO COURTESY OF FULL CIRCLE
Fred Campbell. PHOTO COURTESY OF FULL CIRCLE
Abby Dione made it to Camp 3. PHOTO COURTESY OF FULL CIRCLE