‘Top of the world’: Black climbing team makes history as first to scale Mount Everest

The first all-Black climbing group to reach the summit of Mount Everest was recovering back at the bottom of the mountain on Thursday and celebrating a journey to the “top of the world”.

Seven members of the US-led team made it to the top of the mountain in one expedition, greatly increasing the number of Black people who have summited the world’s highest peak from 10 to 17, out of about 10,000 in total.

Manoah Ainuu, a professional climber from Spokane, Washington, was among the group and said he exceeded his high expectations in getting to the summit of Everest for the first time.

“Up there, it’s a little cold,” he told the NBC Today show on Thursday morning, eliciting laughs from the hosts, as he beamed in by video with a drink in hand from Kathmandu, Nepal, where the successful team was resting.

“Down here, and on the journey to the top of the world, every place is amazing, everyone is amazing, so, yup, it’s all good,” Ainuu said.

The group calls itself the Full Circle Everest expedition. On their website they write: “In 1963, the first American expedition reached the summit of Everest. That same year Dr Martin Luther King delivered his historic I Have A Dream speech. It took 40 more years for the first Black climber to summit Everest. Still, there has never been an all-Black team to summit the tallest mountain on Earth.

“This expedition will showcase the tenacity and strength of these climbers, and highlight the barriers that continue to exist for Black communities in accessing the outdoors.”

Members of the group climbed the tough Mount Rainier in Washington last year, then after intense training they set off for the Himalayas. With a team of Sherpa climbers they reached base camp, then departed on 2 May for the summit. Some did not make the top, but seven did, on 12 May.

“This is a huge accomplishment … now we’re able to take this experience and take it back to our communities and tell the stories, share what we’ve learned of this beautiful place and culture and hopefully inspire a future generation of outdoor enthusiasts,” successful summiteer Rosemary Saal told Today on Thursday.

Teammate Phil Richardson has been working in the climbing and mountaineering industry for almost three decades.

“When I came into it, there weren’t folks like myself that I had to look to for guidance and mentorship and so on,” he said, adding that he was now in a position to mentor others.

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