Thursday, May 26, 2022

Retired teacher James Kagambi becomes first Kenyan to get to peak of Mt. Everest

History Made! 62 year James Kagambi has become the first Native Kenya to summit Mt EVEREST! He reached the summit at 930am Nepal Time yesterday. Kagambi a retired teacher now known as King of the Mountains amused social media users and sports fans when he announced that he would be attempting to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, the world’s highest mountain.

At 62 years old, KG, as he is affectionately known, will be the first and only Kenyan to attempt the climb. The Kenyan hero and mountaineer James Kagambi is among a group of 10 all-black climbers that took an aim at making history in a sport not known for its diversity. The group made the record to be the first all-black team to climb Mount Everest. The other nine members of the team are Americans.

Retired teacher James Kagambi becomes first Kenyan to get to peak of Mt. Everest
Full circle everest team at the summit of Mt Everest

About 6,000 climbers are known to have conquered Everest to date, but fewer than 10 people of African origin are in this exclusive group. The Full Circle Everest team hoped to more than double that number which they successfully did.

At 62, Mr Kagambi is the oldest in the team of experienced mountaineers. He had summitted all the highest peaks in Africa, as well as the highest point in four continents, and hopes to become the first African to achieve all seven. He was the first black African to conquer Denali – the highest peak in North America.

Among the summit party were Manoah Ainuu of Bozeman, Montana; Kenyan climber James Kagambi; Rosemary Saal of Seattle; Desmond “Dom” Mullins of New York City; Abby Dione of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Eddie Taylor of Boulder, Colorado; and Thomas Moore of Denver.

With 34 years of mountaineering experience, he has a track record that convinced skeptics that he would raise the Kenyan flag on the summit of Mt. Everest. Kagambi worked as a school teacher, sports coach, and traditional Africa music tutor before starting his mountaineering career in 1987.

Retired teacher James Kagambi becomes first Kenyan to get to peak of Mt. Everest
James Kagambi on one of his hikes expeditions

In the same year, he became a field instructor for NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School). He spent over 13 years as an outdoor educator in the backcountry, teaching backpacking, climbing, and mountaineering in Africa, Chile, and the United States. KG has also participated in NOLS mountaineering programs in Patagonia, Alaska, East Africa, and India on a regular basis. He’s also completed three of the Seven Summits and represented Africa in the United Nations’ Eiger Peace Climb in 1992.

Henderson, who lives in Cortez, Colorado, did not climb, and instead directed the ascent from Base Camp. The team’s ninth member, Fred Campbell, from Seattle, Washington, turned back before reaching the top. The team was still descending the peak on Thursday as of press time. Henderson, a 30-year veteran of the outdoor industry and a former National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) instructor, spoke to Outside prior to the climb about the importance of the expedition. He said the group formulated the idea to ascend Everest before the pandemic shuttered the mountain in 2020.

“We’re climbers—we’re people who like to be outside, and we just happen to be Black,” Henderson said. “We also know that we represent our communities.”

The group’s goal was to shed light on the barriers that still exist for Black communities to access the outdoors. According to its website, Full Circle Everest also wants to “inspire the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts, educators, leaders, and mountaineers of color to continue chasing their personal summits.”


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