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All-Black climbing team aims to make history on the summit of Everest

An expedition makes its way up Mount Everest (Image credit: Westend61)

A group of climbers is aiming to make history as the first all-Black team to attempt to summit Mount Everest.

The Full Circle Everest Team is a group of nine Black climbers led by Colorado-based Phil Henderson, a veteran Himalayan mountaineer. Henderson, who has 30 years of experience in the outdoor industry, has previously been on an expedition to Everest and now hopes to join the ranks of climbers like Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay who broke records to reach the summit. 

Henderson became one of few African Americans to summit Denali in 2013 and led an all-African American ascent of Mt Kilimanjaro in 2018. On his Instagram (opens in new tab) account, he said he has been training on some of Colorado’s 14ers, such as the gruelling El Diente, and that the goal is to set off from base camp in the spring of 2022. 

“Mt Everest was not something I dreamed about. Mt Everest was never a goal for me, but an opportunity,” wrote Henderson, who has been working closely with members of the Sherpa community and other indigenous peoples of Nepal at the Khumbu Climbing Center. 

“Full Circle Everest Expedition is yet another opportunity. It is an opportunity to build the community of Black climbers that can speak from experience about climbing Mt Everest, the Sherpa culture and other indigenous people of Nepal.”

The first American expedition reached the summit of Everest in 1963, the same year that Dr Martin Luther King delivered his historic “I Have A Dream” speech, however it would take more than 40 years for the first Black climber to reach the world’s highest peak. That happened in 2006, when Sophia Danenberg became the first African American woman and first Black woman to summit Everest. No Black American man has made it to the summit yet.

The Full Circle Everest Team (opens in new tab) aims not only to showcase the tenacity and strength of the climbers, but to highlight the barriers that continue to exist for Black communities in accessing the outdoors. 

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.