First All-Black Climbing Team Summits Mount Everest

Seven members of the first all-Black climbing team to attempt to climb Mount Everest made history and stood on the summit this week, the team leader confirmed May 13.

Philip Henderson made the announcement May 13 on Instagram.

“I am deeply honored to report that seven members of the Full Circle Everest team reached the summit on May 12,” he wrote. “While a few members, including myself, did not summit, all members of the climb and Sherpa teams have safely returned to Base Camp where we will celebrate this historic moment!”

The team also shared photos on Facebook:

Outside magazine reported that the seven members were Manoah Ainuu, James Kagambi, Rosemary Saal, Desmond Mullins, Abby Dione, Eddie Taylor and Thomas Moore.

During a September interview with Denver7, Henderson explained the deeper purpose behind the climb.

“There’s just a lack of representation in the outdoors among especially Black people, and I just happen to be one of very few Black people who have worked in the outdoor industry for a long time,” he said.

“I think it’s very important for us to be visible,” he continued. “If we’re not visible, then younger people don’t even see it as an option to do some of the things that we do, and that could mean going for a hike in the park or climbing Mount Everest and everything in between that.”

When the team first announced their goal, some online commenters criticized them, calling the attempt “divisive.”

“I don’t worry about that stuff,” Henderson said in response. “People are always going to think what they think, and until they actually sit down with us, sit down with me and have a conversation, then maybe they can kind of get the picture, but those people are always going to be there and I’m not going to waste my time on them.”

In September, Taylor, a chemistry teacher and track coach at Centaurus High School in Lafayette, Colorado, told Denver7 that there are a lot of places in the outdoors where Black people don’t feel welcome.

“I think this Everest expedition — it’s not only showing people of color that this is something possible, but it’s just showing everyone that it is possible. Black people enjoy climbing, Black people enjoy the outdoors. They enjoy the same things that everyone else gets from that,” he said.

More than 10,000 people have summited Mount Everest, but the team said records indicate that only includes a small handful of Black climbers.

“Our mission is to tell the WHOLE story and highlight the value in the process. Each member of this team has a story. Together, we speak to many histories, traditions and ancestries,” the team wrote on its Facebook page.

The team started fundraising with a goal of $50,000 to obtain permits and support team members. As of Friday, the GoFundMe had raised more than $184,000.

On that page, Full Circle Everest wrote: “This isn’t just about getting to the top. It’s about culture, community and process. While we care immensely about the goal, we want to share the journey with you. We are training together, planning, and hope to carry these lessons into our broader communities. We care about protecting access to nature, connecting to each other for support and uplifting our voices collectively. Every step of this process matters as much as the end goal and we’d love your help in seeing it fully realized! Now, more than ever, is a time to build bridges and center joy and resilience.”

The climbers trained for months before leaving the country for the quest.

The group arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal on April 5 and headed up to the Khumbu Valley toward the 29,035-foot mountain a couple of days later, then onto Everest Base Camp, where they rested and acclimated to the altitude.

In the days after arriving, the team completed several acclimation climbs. They headed up the mountain on May 9:

“After countless hours of training, preparing, and dedication, the team will make a push for the summit,” they wrote that morning on Facebook.

By Stephanie Butzer, The Denver Channel.