Inside Full Circle Expedition’s Summit: First All-Black Team to Conquer Everest

Mountaineer Philip Henderson and climbing team on the summit of Washington's Mount Rainier.
Of the 10,271 people who’ve stood on the world’s highest point, fewer than 10 were Black. Amrit Ale

On May 12, seven climbers from the Full Circle Expedition reached the summit of Everest, nearly doubling the number of Black climbers to reach the top of the world. In addition to Sherpa guides and support, the climbers included Manoah Ainuu, Eddie Taylor, Rosemary Saal, Demond “Dom” Mullins, Thomas Moore, James “KG” Kagami, and Evan Green.

Before the expedition, we spoke to the trip leader and 30-year-outdoor-industry-veteran Phil Henderson, who first attempted Everest in 2012. He called his team Full Circle because “it’s really about each of us giving back, continuing that legacy of one person making opportunities and providing comfort and space for another person.”

Mountaineer Philip Henderson and climbing team on the summit of Washington's Mount Rainier.

Meet the All-Black Climbing Expedition Working to Make History on Everest

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He added, “It’s about the Sherpa people and working with them. It’s sharing that connection with other American climbers who haven’t been to the Himalaya.”

Henderson said their fiscal sponsor included The Greening Youth Foundation, which works with youth and people of color in Atlanta, Georgia, by helping them get technical training and work experience. “We’re trying to build relationships with people who aren’t just into climbing, but environmental recreation and education,” he says. “The opportunities to climb reach those communities, the Black communities, including Memphis Rox and others. We focused on the lack of information and the lack of untold stories.

“It runs so deep. It’s not that people are excluded; it’s how do you get exposed to [climbing and mountaineering] when it’s not in your community?”

The Full Circle Expedition received support from title sponsors VF Foundation and The North Face, dozens of other sponsors, and more than 1,000 donors who altogether raised $184,642.

“To our knowledge, only 10 Black climbers have stood on the top of Everest,” the team wrote on the Full Circle 2022 GoFundMe page. “This expedition will permanently change the future of mountaineering on a global scale.”

Meet the team of climbers from Full Circle Everest:

  • Manoah Ainuu (MT) Manoah has climbed routes like The Rostrum and Lurking Fear in Yosemite, Liberty Ridge on Mt. Rainier and the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome (the first Grade VI climb in the U.S.). What he loves most is introducing people to the sport. Manoah leads a climbing clinic with kids in Atlanta and Memphis.
  • Eddie Taylor (CO) From skiing Denali to climbing El Capitan in a day, shared experiences and community-building is what drives his outdoor passion. Climbing ice or rock, or peak bagging on skis or foot, he enjoys climbing in all forms, but he finds himself most excited by moving efficiently on long rock routes.
  • Rosemary Saal (WA) In 2016, [Saal] took her Instructor Course with NOLS. Since then, she has worked primarily as a backpacking field instructor and in the summer of 2019, he began her journey of working in the mountaineering program for the school as well.
  • Demond “Dom” Mullins (NY) Demond is an enthusiastic outdoorsman and conducts social research on the benefits of outdoor recreation, particularly mountaineering. In 2015, he conducted an ethnographic study of a group of combat veterans during their summit bid of Denali. He has also summited Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya.
  • Thomas Moore (CO) “Born and raised in the small town of Cartersville, Georgia, Thomas developed a passion for travel as a young man, touring through scores of countries, where he relished experiencing new cultures. One day, a friend invited him to fill an empty spot on a Kilimanjaro expedition. Despite no prior mountaineering experience and little training, he signed on and realized while summiting he had a knack for withstanding the conditions.”
  • James “KG” Kagami (KENYA) KG has climbed three of the Seven Summits and in 1992 represented Africa in the U.N Peace Climb for the world on the Eiger. He was the first Black African to summit Denali in 1989 and was the first Black African to summit Aconcagua in 1994. He is actively involved in train¬ing Kenya’s mountain rescue teams.
  • Evan Green is an avid climber, cyclist, snowboarder, and backpacker based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Evan works as a freelance photographer and filmmaker specializing in the outdoor industry, combining his passions with creativity to craft authentic stories in the mountains. His work has been published in Rock & Ice, Outside, Climbing Magazine, and several commercial projects for outdoor brands.

The members of the Full Circle Expedition who did not reach the summit include Phil Henderson, Fred Campbell, and Abby Dione.

“While a few members, including myself, did not summit,” Henderson wrote on Instagram, “all members of the climb and Sherpa teams have safely returned to Base Camp where we will celebrate this historic moment!”

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