Looming 20,320 feet above sea level, Denali (also known as Mount McKinley) is North America’s highest mountain, and permits only the most seasoned climbers to summit its treacherous peaks.
Video: The Wilderness Society
"Think about the story that mountaineering has been. It's been mainly white male," said Expedition Denali member Erica Wynn. "If a little black girl were to look into mountaineering and hear that single story, she would probably say 'I don't have much of a place there, or the odds are against me.' And I hope that Expedition Denali and being a part of this helps to change that story."
In addition to being pioneering mountaineers, the members of Expedition Denali are also diversity champions, change leaders in the youth and outdoors movement, educational reformers, writers, photographers and business leaders.
As role models in the African American outdoor and wilderness community, the Expedition Denali team demonstrates the value of leadership skills, communication, tolerance for adversity and uncertainty and the benefits of working together to achieve a common goal.
At 19,600 feet with the summit in sight, an incoming lightning storm caused the mountaineers of Expedition Denali to turn back. With the safe return of every member of the team, the expedition successfully completed its mission. The peak was a goal, but it was never the priority for these role models, and their efforts to inspire youth of color to get outside, get active and chase Denali-sized dreams have already had a profound impact.
Upon their descent, the members of Expedition Denali immediately launched a nationwide inspiration tour to speak directly to youth about their adventures. The team will talk at local schools and community centers about their experiences on Denali and will also lead hikes with young, aspiring outdoor-lovers.
"I cannot wait to start talking to young people about what we experience and what we see. Once people see what's out there, the rest kind of takes care of itself," said team member Stephen Deberry.
Together, Expedition Denali, NOLS and The Wilderness Society hope to inspire a love for public lands in America's youth by providing live-changing experiences in the great outdoors.
Learn more about what inspired the members of Expedition Denali in this inspirational video