Everest, equity and inclusion – Boulder Weekly
Despite nearly a decade of experience, Eddie Taylor is still taken for a novice climber, and it has nothing to do with his skills.
“People just aren’t used to seeing black people rock climbing,” said Taylor, a 13-year-old Boulder-area resident. If you’ve ever visited the granite domes of Boulder Canyon or the towering Flatiron Slabs, you know he’s right. Watching him float effortlessly on a vertical tapestry of land in the early morning light pouring into Eldorado Canyon, it’s clear that Taylor is no beginner. It’s also not surprising that Taylor is aiming much higher than the towering sandstone cliffs of Eldo. He wants to show that rock climbing and the outdoor experience in general is as much a space for the black community as it is for anyone else.
In the spring of 2022, Taylor will travel to the Himalayas as part of the Full Circle Everest (FCEE) expedition with an all-black cohort of climbers. Their goal is to make history by becoming the first all-black team to climb the highest mountain on the planet.
Led by Phil Henderson, a seasoned mountaineer and 30-year veteran of the outdoor industry, the team has built their expedition around much more than peaking. It’s an effort to steer the narrative of mountaineering, rock climbing, and simply the outdoors into a more inclusive narrative for future generations. It is about showing that the outdoors is a space for everyone. It’s about uplifting and inviting new faces into the mix. For Taylor, what has been a very rewarding but purely personal quest over the past nine years has turned into another way for him to influence and inspire alongside a diverse but unified team of members of the ‘shipping.
As of April 2020, Mount Everest had been climbed more than 10,000 times by some 5,788 people. The number of black peaks does not exceed 10, a staggering disparity in representation. Unfortunately, a quick image search of the words “climbing” or “mountaineering” online reinforces a similar discrepancy. In their efforts, the Full Circle team will fill this gap, as it is much easier to inspire a new and diverse generation of dreamers and outdoor enthusiasts when the images they see on paper and on screen have people. that look like them.
Telling black stories is essential for promoting diversity in the outdoors
When not connecting the pitches around Boulder, Taylor teaches high school science in Lafayette, where he is also the head coach of the track team. He thrives on having a direct impact in the classroom, but he finds the same joy in helping students succeed on the track, even if that same triumph has eluded them in the classroom.
Taylor grew up participating in organized sports such as track and field, football, and basketball. When he came to Boulder in 2008 to attend CU, he joined the track team and competed in the decathlon. Climbing wasn’t even on his radar. It wasn’t until after graduating from CU that he tried it. Goal oriented and having found a new outside site to apply, it didn’t take long for Taylor to get hooked. With tours to the summit of Denali (20,310 feet) and Aconcagua (22,867 feet), the highest peaks in the Americas, as well as Africa’s second tallest, Mount Kenya (17,057 feet), Taylor has developed a knack for getting the job done in ski boots, crampons and rock boots.
On the terrace of a Lafayette cafe, Taylor laughed, remembering that her initial impression of climbing was “like when you go up Mount Everest or something.” Ironic, considering that’s exactly where it takes him next spring.
Taylor’s legacy of Full Circle’s expedition will tell its own tale, but it also bears the weight of stories of black explorers and mountaineers who have remained unknown for generations. With such under-representation in the outdoors, especially in mountaineering, the achievements of blacks are poorly documented and extremely difficult to research. James Beckwourth, Matthew Henson, Charles Crenchaw, and Sophia Danenberg are a few names of historic black adventurers you’ve probably never heard of.
Beckwourth was a freed slave and a pioneer of the American West. He discovered a low mountain pass on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada where settlers traveled to California during the Gold Rush and which now bears his name.
Henson participated in the 1909 Arctic Expedition led by Commander Robert Edwin Peary and is considered the first person to set foot on the North Pole.
Crenchaw was the first African-American to climb Denali, the highest peak in North America, on July 9, 1964. An exhibit dedicated to Crenchaw is on display at the Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum in Golden, Colorado.
Danenberg is the first African American woman and also the first black woman to stand on top of Mount Everest. Known as Sagarmatha on the Nepalese side and Chomolungma on the Tibetan side, the first confirmed ascent of the highest mountain on Earth was in 1953. It took 53 more years, until May 19, 2006, for Danenberg goes down in history and reaches the top.
Community work is a fundamental objective of this expedition.
Another central goal of the Full Circle Everest Expedition is community building and connection. The Sherpas are the ancestral stewards of the Khumbu region, at the foot of Everest, on the Nepalese side of the mountain. Henderson, the leader of the Full Circle Everest expedition, has a long history with the region. He has spent a lot of time contributing to local communities, training Sherpa climbers and hiring local outfitters. The team operates on the belief that by visiting the Khumbu region and trying to climb the mountain which is at the heart of the Sherpa way of life and religion, it is important to reciprocate and build a relationship.
The Full Circle Everest Expedition is asking the Boulder community to help in this relationship through a GoFundMe to support the immense financial demands of such a massive trip. Summit day’s physical and mental challenge aside, Taylor says getting financial support is the other hardest part of the effort. The first two weeks of the campaign raised over $ 50,000 from over 200 individual donors. They climb steadily towards a fundraising goal of $ 75,000 by October 1.
With the goal of making history on the world’s highest peak, the Full Circle Everest Expedition also has an even bigger goal.
“This expedition will showcase the tenacity and strength of these climbers,” the CFS website read, “and highlight the barriers that continue to exist for black communities in accessing the outdoors. . “
Through storytelling and community building, Taylor and the CFS team stand ready to remind the world that the outdoors is a space for everyone. Their open invitation to participate aims to “inspire the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts, educators, leaders and mountaineers of color to continue to pursue their personal heights.”
More information: To donate, follow or learn more about the Full Circle Everest Expedition: fullcircleeverest.com