Those Who Inspire
In the spirit of Black History Month, we want to take a moment to highlight some Black adventurers who inspire us to “Do Something Wild” while out on the trail.
At Wilderness Adventures, we are continually working towards a future where everyone is included at our campfire, on the trails, on the summit, and all the places in between. As our organization strives to acknowledge contributions of the Black community, we want to highlight a few inspiring Black trailblazers.
James Beckwourth was an American Trapper who discovered the Beckwourth Pass through the Sierra Nevada. Born into slavery in Fredericksburg, VA, Beckwourth was manumitted as a young man. He joined William Ashley as a fur trapper in Wyoming. He enjoyed life as a trapper, and in the late summer of 1850, Beckwourt led the first wagon train of settlers along through a low-elevation pass in the Sierra Nevada into Marysville, now called the Beckwourth Pass. Pioneering a new trial for travelers to make this pass was highly valued at this time, as it opened up California to emigrants traveling West. Between 1885 and 1916 this pass turned into a toll road and railway pass to transport goods.
Matthew Henson was an American explorer best known for his role in the first successful expedition to the North Pole in 1909. He traveled with Robert Peary, who originally hired him as his assistant, but then went on to say that he could not make it to the North Pole without him. Because of the color of his skin, Henson’s contributions in this expedition were largely overlooked for many years due to racial discrimination. Peary was the face of the mission, while Henson’s technical skills and experience were the driving force that led the mission to success.
Sophia Danenberg was the first Black woman to climb Mt. Everest. In 2006, Sophia set out to attempt a large feat – climb Mt. Everest. Being one of the tallest peaks in the world, reaching the summit of Mt. Everest not only takes months of dedicated training, but it also takes patience and determination as climbers wait for the conditions to be just right. Sophia did not set out to make history with her climb, she reached new heights as the first Black woman, and first Black American to stand on the summit of Everest. As Sophia likely faced all of the physical, mental and emotional challenges of climbing a 29,000 ft peak that other climbers do, she also took on the challenge of being the first Black American to endure this climb. Sophia’s accomplishment was not only monumental on a personal level, but also for the many Black mountaineers and climbers who had never seen themselves reflected in the climbing community.
At Wilderness Adventures, we know that time spent in the wilderness can be transformative and build self-confidence and self-reliance. Over the past 50 years, Wilderness Adventures has put 30,000 students on a variety of trips, teaching these foundational skills. This is something Wilderness Adventures is extremely proud of – giving our students the opportunity to adventure into the wilderness.
We want everyone to be and feel welcome, included and supported in the outdoors. As we move forward, we strive to educate ourselves, and encourage you to do the same.