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From Everest to the World

For Full Circle Expeditions, summiting Everest is just the beginning.

It all started with a vision: create spaces for us, built by us. Phil Henderson, outdoor professional of 30 years, has been steadily carving out space for Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) to participate and thrive in the outdoors.


After working for numerous outdoor organizations and perfecting his skills as an outdoor educator, Henderson decided to create his own space, one in which folks of color saw themselves represented in positions of leadership. Full Circle Expeditions (FCE) was born, with the mission of inspiring, motivating and globalizing people of color in the outdoor community.

“It is a huge benefit to see yourself represented in anything you do. We just want to help people of color find their path.” - Phil Henderson, FCE Expedition Leader

Things looked a little different in 1999. Back then, FCE was a concept, and Henderson led trips with a group of friends from California who were interested in hiking, backpacking and learning about being outside. FCE went on to become an official business in 2003.


One of the first contracts was a risk management assessment for a caving program in Ashley National Forest. In 2005, FCE began guiding trips to Denali for Alaska Mountaineering School(Opens in a new window). Next came a partnership with the Khumbu Climbing Center(Opens in a new window) and trips to Nepal in 2006. “My experiences just kept moving forward,” Henderson says. FCE continued to return to Nepal nearly every year until 2014. In 2013, while on Denali, Henderson connected with Rosemary Saal and Adina Scott, who were members of the first all-Black ascent of Denali, and would join the FCE up Everest. During this time Henderson also ran a trip to Mt Kilimanjaro for Outdoor Afro(Opens in a new window), and spent three years living in South America. “It was when I came back to the U.S. after being in South America for three years when things started to take shape for the Everest expedition to happen. We started the planning in late winter 2019,” Henderson recalls.

Diversifying the outdoors isn’t something new; it’s been happening for decades. More recent movements to diversify the outdoors have helped illuminate and uplift the behind-the-scenes work that BIPOC folks like Henderson have been building. Simply put, the work that folks of color have been doing for decades has gotten us to where we are today. On May 12, 2022, FCE nearly doubled the amount of Black people to summit Mount Everest. Seven members of the Full Circle group successfully reached the summit of Everest. Their names are: Rosemary Saal, Abby Dione, Manoah Ainuu, Frederick Campbell, Eddie Taylor, James Kagamby, Desmond Mullins and Thomas Moore. The summit team also consisted of Sherpa guides: Panyru Sherpa, Chhewang Lhemdu Sherpa, Ming Chiri, Nima Rita, Pasang Dawa Sherpa, Pasang Nima, Pemba Sherpa, Ngawang Tenjing Sherpa, Dachhree Sherpa, Lakpa Nurbu Sherpa, Namgel Chopel Sherpa, Fura Chheteu, Finju Dorje and Nima Nuru.

Everest was a goal because it was a good next step in the mountaineering careers of most of the team. Many had already been above 6,000 meters multiple times and all were experienced in the mountains. Everest is an iconic mountain and has worldwide attention every spring. The Full Circle team made history as the first all-Black team to reach the roof of the world.

The expedition preliminary steps started in 2019.  Once the team started to secure funding, the challenge became supply chain issues and safety around COVID. They managed to get a couple of different training trips together, which most of the team members were able to join, notably Mount Rainier in July, 2021, and a trip to Phortse, Nepal, in January, 2022.  

While this physical feat will remain in the history books, the most meaningful part of this expedition was showing the world that Black people can be outdoorsy, be mountaineers, be ice climbers and be leaders in these spaces.

“Most importantly, we want to inspire people of color from around the world to join the outdoor community,” Henderson states.

Summiting Everest was just the start for FCE. This feat helped set the tone for the future of the organization; after all, if this team can summit Everest, what can’t they do?


The next steps for FCE include creating programs to help more folks of color access the outdoors. Whether it is learning the skills of avalanche safety for backcountry skiing, planning your first hiking trip, or visiting Everest Base Camp, Full Circle aims to provide services that are inclusive of people of color, build programs that include people of color and have leaders that are people of color. In this way, Full Circle can create access to the outdoors in safe spaces. Follow along with Full Circle Expeditions by following along on Instagram(Opens in a new window) and visiting their webpage(Opens in a new window). Stay tuned for more educational programs and guided trips coming in the future by signing up for the FCE Newsletter(Opens in a new window). All photos taken by Evan Green(Opens in a new window)

From 9/30/2022 - 10/6/2022, we’re donating 5% of online sales, up to $10,000, to Full Circle Expeditions. Shop now to support FCE!(Opens in a new window)



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