30 May Full Circle Everest: The Story of Demond “Dom” Mullins
On May12, 2022, history was made as the first team of Black American climbers successfully ascended to the summit of Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world. Known as the Full Circle Everest Expedition, this group of six men and one woman, all of African descent, made it safely to the top of the mountain and back to Everest Base Camp. The team included an array of climbers from across the United States and one native of Kenya. They ranged in age from 26 to 62. And they achieved this great accomplishment with the invaluable assistance of eight Nepali Sherpa guides. At a moment in time when even the most remote corners of our planet seem well within reach of human endeavor and ambition, this unique expedition is the latest milestone not only in the progress of high-altitude mountaineering, but the global advancement of racial diversity, equity and inclusion in the outdoor recreation industry.
Almost 70 years since the first formally recognized ascent of Everest in 1953 by Sir Edmond Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, Black Americans have at last realized the metaphorical vision that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. defined in his many speeches that encouraged the aspiration to climb mountains. In was in August of 1963, the same year that the first American team led by Jim Whittaker reached the Everest summit, that King shared his dream at the March on Washington and declared that freedom for all people must be allow to “Ring From Every Mountainside”
But throughout the Civil Movement of the 1960’s and well into the 21st Century, it would take more than 50 years for the feat of a successful Everest ascent to be achieved by Black South African climber Sibusiso Vilane on May 26, 2003. Three years later, Sophia Danenberg of Seattle, Washington, became the first Black American climber to reach the summit of Everest in 2006. In the time since, of the many thousands of people who have made it to the top, only six have been Black. And more than 15 years after that first ascent by Vilane, it is only now that a team of Black Americans have been assembled, trained and financed with the support of commercial sponsors and nonprofit donors to finally ascend as a community to the most prestigious mountain top on the planet. With the Full Circle Everest Expedition, the number of Black climbers to ascend to the summit has now more than doubled!
The story behind this ground-breaking accomplishment is the culmination of the many decades of effort on the part of diversity, equity and inclusion advocates who recognize the importance of creating recreational spaces and opportunities that are welcoming and accessible to all people. To truly understand how we got to this particular moment in our history I believe it’s necessary to take a close look into the lives of those individuals who are intimately a part of it. Among the seven climbers on the Full Circle Everest Expedition team who reached the summit is Demond “Dom” Mullins. I just happen to reach him in Nepal over the WhatsApp messaging platform while he was trekking through the Khumbu Valley. In the village of Phortse, a few weeks before the rest of his teammates arrived to begin their journey, I caught him during his dinner.
In this very candid conversation Mullins shares not only his life and career as a climber but also his work to earn a doctorate in the field of sociology through the study of war and military conflict. We also discussed his time spent as a soldier in the U.S. Army. At the age of 19, he was called to serve in Iraq immediately after the events near his hometown of New York City on September 11, 2001.
I’m James Edward Mills and you’re listening to The Joy Trip Project.
Through his aspirations to climb high mountains Demond Mullins has defined for himself a place in the world where he can express both pride and passion for his convictions. In the days that follow Dom and his fellow team members of the Full Circle Everest Expedition will demonstrate to themselves and the entire world exactly what Black climbers can achieve. After almost six weeks of concerted effort the Full Circle team made it to the summit of Mount Everest. With Dom the other climbers include Manoah Ainuu, Eddie Taylor, Rosemary Saal, Thomas Moore, James “KG” Kagambi, and Evan Green
You can learn more about the Full Circle Everest Expedition online at FullCircleEverest.com. Proceeds from the sale of logo-ed stickers and patches go to support the families of Himalayan mountain workers through the Juniper Fund. Buy yours today at the links below For The Lives of Sherpa
The Joy Trip Project is made possible thanks to the support of the Schlecht Family Foundation and the National Geographic Society. You can follow along on this and other journeys through history at Joytripproject.com.
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