Team of black climbers to scale Mt Everest to combat its ‘intentional lack of access for black people’

An experienced team of nine black climbers dubbed “The Full Circle Everest Expedition” will attempt to scale Mt. Everest in the spring of 2022, after two years of preparation; the stated mission reveals their goal is to combat the mountain’s ‘intentional lack of access for black people’ and mountaineering’s ‘colonial history’.

They have also established a GoFundMe page to assist in their efforts, which has garnered them over $150,000 in support to this point.

Historically, about 800 people attempt to climb Mt. Everest, the world’s tallest mountain, each year, according to The Explorer’s Passage. As of December 2021, over 6,000 people have successfully climbed to its summit. Many people who begin the climb do not succeed because of the harrowing conditions along the way; indeed, an average of five people die each year in the attempt.

The GoFundMe page for the Full Circle Everest Expedition notes a different set of numbers, saying on the site, “As of 2020, there have been more than 10,000 summits of the mountain. To our knowledge, only 10 Black climbers have stood on the top of Everest. This expedition will permanently change the future of mountaineering on a global scale.”

“This isn’t just about getting to the top. It’s about culture, community and process,” the team added. “Everest is not the end goal, but just the beginning. Our expedition will reshape the narrative of the outdoors to one that is inclusive and where everyone belongs. Each member of this team has a powerful story to share. Together, we speak to many histories, traditions, and ancestries.”

In a video on the planned trek, one of the team’s athletes, Manoah Ainuu, said ‘the main reason this is important: Historically, black and brown people haven’t been in these areas and environments, especially not on the highest point of the world.”

The climbers have established that their climb is to combat the idea that black and brown people have not had access to this mountain and others in the past, but realistically, mountain climbing is not for everyone, regardless of race or creed. It is a dangerous sport that demands much of a climber — physically, mentally, and financially.

Consider the guidelines proposed after the deadly 2019 climbing season, when at least 11 hikers lost their lives or went missing:

  • People looking to climb Mount Everest must have climbed at least one peak of more than 6,500-meters (21,325 feet) before getting a permit.
  • Climbers will need to submit a report of good health and physical fitness.
  • Climbers will need to be accompanied by a trained Nepalese guide.
  • Clients of expedition companies would have to prove that they had paid at least $35,000 for the expedition.
  • The government may also require mandatory health checkups at Everest Base Camp
  • Tourism/Expedition companies will need to have at least three years experience organizing high-altitude expeditions before leading trips on Mount Everest.

 

The suggestion that Mt. Everest — or the sport of mountain climbing in general — is racist is a stretch: the demographics of Americans who choose mountain climbing as a sport do suggest that white and Latino men over 40 make up the lion’s share of climbers, with just 10% of climbers being black.  (Note: Sherpas, probably the most prolific climbers of Mt. Everest, are not included as a category in the referenced demographic survey, which as indicated includes only climbers in the United States.)

The demographics also say that only 9% of all climbers are women; does that make the sport misogynistic, too? If, as some say, only eight black people have scaled Mt. Everest to its peak, it’s likely due to the smaller number of black climbers who have chosen to attempt it. With only 800 people worldwide attempting it each year, and only about 6,000 people or so ever reaching the summit since 1953 when Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first to achieve it, the odds of anyone — black or white, male or female — reaching the summit are slim.

If The Full Circle Everest Expedition would like to promote increased participation in mountain climbing among black people, by all means, do so. And best of luck to the team in what will be a very dangerous endeavor. But to blame the sport, or the mountain, is an over-reach, as evidenced by the reaction on Twitter:

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