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First all-Black climbing team to summit Everest talks about desire to 'inspire' others

Before the Full Circle Everest team's feat, it's believed only 10 Black people had ever scaled the world's highest peak.
/ Source: TODAY

The first all-Black group to climb to the top of Mount Everest is reveling in its accomplishment.

Seven members of the Full Circle Everest group scaled Mount Rainier in Washington last year and worked to conquer Everest after that. The team left base camp May 2, reaching the summit May 12. Of the estimated 10,000 people to have previously climbed Everest, only about 10 were Black, meaning Full Circle’s feat nearly doubled the number of Black climbers who’ve reached its peak.

The group said this marks an important moment for the Black community.

“This is a huge accomplishment, just for each of us on our team, for the Full Circle team, for our Sherpa team, for all of the support that we had,” Rosemary Saal told TODAY on Thursday, while joined from Nepal by teammates Phil Richardson and Manoah Ainuu.

“And 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 enthusiast.”

Expedition leader Richardson said there were two reasons why he felt it was so important to make the journey to Everest, including the need to give back to others.

“I’ve been working in the industry now for almost three decades,” he said. “And when I came into it, there weren’t folks like myself that I had to look to for guidance and mentorship and so on. And not that I haven’t had mentors, but, after three decades, I kind of found myself in that place to mentor different members of this team and so on. So, that’s a part of it.

“But the other part is that I’ve had a relationship with people in Nepal in the Sherpa community, and I’ve helped train a lot of them in their in their craft of working as high altitude workers. And I just wanted to really share my love and my community with the Sherpa people within the community that I have at home, as well.”

Before the group set off on its quest, climbing leader Fred Campbell said he saw scaling Everest as a chance to help other dream big, as well.

“I hope that they see our experience and how much we love being out on the mountain and kind of enjoying the adventure and they’re inspired to find an adventure of their own,” he told TODAY in February.

The Full Circle team is the latest to shatter records by climbing Everest. Earlier this month, 18-year-old climber Lucy Westlake became the youngest woman to do so.

“It was absolutely incredible,” she told TODAY last week. “Being at the top, I just couldn’t imagine that I was at the top of the world. I looked down and there’s nothing higher, but still ... I thought I was going to cry at the top.”