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When imagining a person summiting Everest, or any tall peak for that matter, it’s not likely that a person of color comes to mind. But, of course, that doesn’t mean that BIPOC folks aren’t out there getting after it—far from it! A significant part of the problem lies in representation from outdoor brands and outdoor media showing only white bodies participating in outdoor recreation.
Many outdoorists are coming to terms with this. And more brands have recognize it, and begin making an effort to increase representation in their content output, too. Though far from perfect, The North Face is making an effort—with Black History Month as backdrop, the brand has created a product-based initiative to increase the visibility of Black people in mountaineering by highlighting two notable Black climbers with Everest accomplishments.
Sophie Danenberg, who made the first Everest summit by a Black American, and Phil Henderson, who will be leading the first all-Black expedition of Everest, are the subject of a new, limited-edition collection of graphic apparel, available now.
Back in 2006, Danenberg became the first Black American and Black woman to summit Mount Everest. But Everest is just one peak in Sophia’s bag; her summit CV also includes the Matterhorn, Denali, two counts of Mount Rainier, and many more. Her accomplishments continue to inspire a generation of climbers. In the launch video for The North Face's collection, Danenberg says:
“My climb isn’t as significant to me as this sort of young generation of Black women who are sort of coming up now. You know, when they tell me they take inspiration from my story, that’s what I think is significant. I’m not like, creating the change, I’m like a reflection of the change that’s beginning to happen.”
For Phil Henderson’s part, prepare to hear his name in the mainstream a lot more soon—Henderson is set to lead the first all-Black expedition of climbers to attempt a summit of Everest later this year. A California native and Colorado local, Henderson has spent nearly thirty years working in the outdoor industry, starting as a rafting guide on the Stanislaus River before moving onto the National Outdoor Leadership School to teach students outdoor skills of all pursuits.
Eleven Black climbers make up the Full Circle Everest Team, each with their own experiences and accomplishments. You can donate to the team’s expedition fundraiser, where $30k is still needed to meet their $200k goal at the time of this writing. Help fund history!
While the initiative is a positive step, we can’t help but point out a missed opportunity on part of The North Face to use the collection to generate donations for an organization like Sending In Color, or even Full Circle Everest itself. Still, it’s encouraging to see a brand this big make an earnest effort to increase the visibility of Black athletes in mountain sports.
The illustrated tees are currently available in three different tie-dye colorways for men and women and solids for boys and girls f0r $45.