When Antonina Samoilova summited Mount Everest with more than a dozen other commercial team climbers, she did so with a Ukrainian flag flying on her backpack. Before climbing to the top of the world’s tallest mountain at 8,849 meters, the 33-year-old posted on Instagram, it was “one more reminder to the world that Ukraine is still fighting and we will fight until what we win”. Out of 317 foreign climbers, Samoilova was the only Ukrainian woman authorized by the Nepalese government to tackle Everest.
No ban for Russian climbers
Most Ukrainian climbers have abandoned their plans for the Himalayan climbing season due to the Russian invasion of their homeland. The number of Russian hopefuls reaching the summit, however, was in the same region as in 2021 when, despite the rampant spread of COVID-19, the government issued a record 408 climbing permits. Ahead of this climbing season in Nepal, voices have been raised to ban Russian climbers, as other sports have done. The Kathmandu government did not respond to this request. Nepal, unlike its neighbors India and Pakistan, voted in favor of a UN resolution strongly condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Climbs of Everest used to convey political or social messages are not uncommon. The highest mountain in the world is probably the only one that sticks in people’s minds and guarantees attention. Successful ascent of the mountain was not an exclusive pursuit for a long time. Since New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay first climbed the mountain in 1953, there have been around 10,000 ascents. Only two percent of these goals have been achieved without using bottled oxygen. Without the support of the Sherpas, almost everyone who attempted to climb the mountain would never have made it past the base camp at 5,300 meters above sea level. But such details hardly play a role in public perception.
History for black climbers
Those who go to Everest usually enjoy some visibility. This is true not only for Samoilova, but also for the eleven members of the “Full Circle Everest” team, the first Everest expedition composed entirely of black climbers. Eight of them would have reached the summit on May 12 (with bottled oxygen). The project generated a lot of media interest thanks to the team’s political message.
“This expedition will showcase the tenacity and strength of these climbers, and highlight the barriers that continue to exist for black communities in accessing the outdoors,” is how the group described their ascent. “This historic endeavor will inspire the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts, educators, leaders and mountaineers of color to continue to pursue their personal heights.”
Previously, only nine blacks had climbed Everest. The first was American Sophia Danenberg in 2006, a feat that largely went unnoticed. Today, the 50-year-old analyzes the environmental policy of the American airline Boeing. Danenberg expects the next ten to 15 years to bring real change. “I think there will be a lot more black climbers in the next 10, 15 years,” she said in an interview with the award-winning climbing blog Adventure Mountain. “As more and more black people do it and introduce it to their children and their communities, I think the number of black climbers will grow exponentially.”