By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
It’s not easy getting to the top of the world. Or even to the jumping off spot for the trek.
Central Wyoming College Professor Jacki Klancher and five of her students learned this life lesson in May, when they did exactly that.
Klancher and the five students accompanied First Circle, the first all-Black climbing team to summit the world’s tallest mountain, to the south base camp of Mount Everest in May, taking the opportunity along the way to test new climate sensor technology.
Full Circle reached the summit of Everest on May 12.
“I’ve been friends with (team members) Phil Henderson and James Kagambi for about three decades,” Klancher told Cowboy State Daily on Friday. “So when they started to launch this expedition, I wanted to be supportive and I thought about whether this could be an opportunity…to integrate some research and climate technologies into their expedition.”
After back and forth conversations with the Full Circle team members, Klancher and a handful of her students were offered the opportunity to come along to the base camp in Nepal at a little more than 17,000 feet in altitude.
Klancher said since there are not really any Black students at Central Wyoming College, she thought about which students would best fit in with the Full Circle team. From there, she selected four Native American students and one white student who is the first member of his family to attend college.
It was important to Klancher to showcase the diversity of both her team and Full Circle to enourage equity for underrepresented groups.
The team quickly came together, with the students being selected in January and then leaving in May for Everest.
Antoine Day, an Eastern Shoshone member, was chosen to come along and photograph students’ expedition to base camp, which he will soon turn into his own photo exhibit that will be on display at CWC later this year.
“This was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Day said on Friday. “As a Native American, I thought it was important to document this trip and I could do it from a unique perspective.”
Although well short of Everest’s peak, the trek to base camp is no cakewalk and climbers usually spend several days there just acclimating to the altitude.
Although Klancher, Day and the rest of the group are fairly active people who regularly work out, the lack of oxygen at the high altitude took a toll on their bodies, Klancher said, and members of the group suffered from shortness of breath and fatigue while at the camp.
The group tested emerging climate sensor technology during the trip and got the opportunity to learn about Nepal and the local culture, an experience that was priceless.
“Even though we’re in different cultures across the world, we managed to find common ground,” Klancher said. “They were all so welcoming and eager to share their lives and homes so that we may experience how they lived.”