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Home » Features » Former Kenyan Teacher Tops Mount Everest

Former Kenyan Teacher Tops Mount Everest

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Retired Kenyan teacher, James Kagambi (also known as KG), has shattered the nation’s record books by becoming the first Kenyan native to summit Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world.

Kagambi and his team, Full Circle, a group of Black climbers and mountaineers, went on a 40-day expedition to achieve a feat about 4,000 people have ever attempted on the mountain which stands at a record high of 8,848 metres.

The founder and owner of KG Mountain Expeditions ascended all the way to the top of Mt Everest on Thursday, May 12, 2022.

James Kagambi during a mountain climbing expedition. /iNEWS UK

“The Full Circle Everest team led by Philip Henderson from California has made history as the first all-Black team to stand atop the summit, the highest mountain on earth,” Jiban Ghimire, managing director at Shangri-La Nepal Treks, confirmed to the Himalayan Times.

Phil Henderson, Manoah Ainuu, Fred Campbell, Abby Dione, Thomas Moore, Desmond “Dom” Mullins, Rosemary Saal, and Eddie Taylor trekked to the top alongside Kagambi. Henderson, however, did not attempt the summit himself despite leading the team from the base camp.

Kagambi is the oldest individual in the team of experienced mountaineers, at 62 years old, and chose the highest mountain after conquering all peaks in Africa. He has 34 years of mountaineering experience.

He worked as a school teacher, sports coach, and traditional African music tutor before starting his mountaineering career in 1987. 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.

“KG has summited the Eiger three times, was the first black African to summit Denali in 1989, and was the first black African to summit Aconcagua in 1994. He has led other climbs including Expedition Denali – First African-American expedition to Denali,” the expedition explained his profile.

Since the 1990s, KG has led climbs on Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro. On Mount Kenya, Kilimanjaro, and the Rwenzoris, he trains search and rescue teams.

On December 12, 2013, he and five others made the climb to Mt Kenya’s highest point known as Batian at 5,199 metres and hosted the Kenyan flag to commemorate 50 years of independence.

Evans Mwiti, Simon Thumuni, Kenneth Kimanthi, and Laban Wanjohi accompanied KG for the expedition and met with President Uhuru Kenyatta to celebrate the achievement.

It costs from Ksh15,000 for a three-day package to trek the Mt Kenya peaks, which covers the entrance fee together with the camping fees. In contrast, climbing Mt Everest would set you back roughly Ksh9.8 million (US$85,000).

An image of Mt. Everest. /GETTY IMAGES

Mt Everest In Record Books

One critical element of Full Circle’s work is being respectful to the local Nepalis and to the Sherpas who accompany climbing groups on their ascents.

The most famous Everest climb, for example, saw Sir Edmund Hillary get the majority of attention in 1953, with his Sherpa guide and colleague Tenzing Norgay’s name not added to the record books for decades.

In addition, Hillary was referred to as the first person to climb to the top of Everest, even though there were many accounts of Sherpas reaching the highest peak before foreigners had ever set foot in the country.


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Marvin Chege
About author: Digital journalist and managing director with a passion for writing captivating stories. Marvin is a young scribe, a social media, sports, gaming junkie and realist who specialises in viral news, multimedia and investigative storytelling.

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