Expedition Denali: Inspiring Diversity in the Outdoors

Expedition Denali: Inspiring Diversity in the Outdoors


Expedition Denali: Inspiring Diversity in the Outdoors


Expedition Denali: Inspiring Diversity in the Outdoors

What will happen to the public lands in this country when the majority of Americans don’t feel a personal connection to the outdoors?

By 2019, some estimates predict that minority children will become the majority in the U.S. These kids will become the leaders of this country and the world, and a staggering majority of them don’t feel the outdoors is a place for them.

In June of this year, nine mountaineers will attempt to become the first all-African-American expedition to climb Denali (a.k.a. Mount McKinley) in Alaska. Not only is this team unique in regards to the color of their skin, their goal goes way beyond summiting North America’s highest peak. Their ultimate objective is to inspire people of all colors, young and old, to get more engaged in the great outdoors. Why? Because long-term preservation and ongoing stewardship of the world’s wild places will require a broader, more inclusive, more colorful constituency.

Our purpose in creating this documentary film is to tell the amazing story of Expedition Denali, but in order to do that we need your help.

This National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) expedition, with support from The North Face, REI, and the Foundation for Youth Investment, will happen. How many people know about it—how far their inspiration and awareness reaches—is another question.

Your donation will enable us to create a powerful, far-reaching feature film on the team’s journey to the roof of North America. From putting a camera team on the mountain with the expedition to producing, promoting and distributing the resulting feature-length film, this project will increase awareness for the allure and rewards of exploring natural environments and make clear that it’s high time to welcome all races, all ethnicities—all people—to nature’s inspirational outdoor playgrounds.

This group of climbers will do more than climb a mountain. At an elevation of 20,320 feet, extreme altitude and harsh weather aren’t the only barriers Expedition Denali is determined to break through. On the 100th anniversary of the first Denali summit, Expedition Denali is a symbolic step forward, encouraging people of color—and particularly African American youth—to participate in and become inspired by the vastness and beauty of nature.

Team members on the Mt. Baker practice climb in the Pacific Northwest, check out the video.
Team members on the Mt. Baker practice climb in the Pacific Northwest, check out the video.

In short, they will not only make history, they will create a legacy, “to get outside and get active.” As documented in Richard Louv’s book, “Last Child in the Woods,” fewer and fewer young people are enjoying the outdoors. This problem is particularly acute in our communities of color where “nature deficit disorder” and childhood obesity are reaching epidemic proportions. Without opportunities to experience the great outdoors, or role models to inspire them to get engaged in it in the first place, the next generation of passionate advocates for the outdoors won’t be heard.

If wild places had LeBron James or Serena Williams, this issue may be moot. But for kids of color, there are not enough outdoor icons to give them a reason to care. No sporting super heroes to lure them into the magic of mountains—no cultural icons to cast limelight on the expansive, restorative, soulful rewards of time spent outdoors.

As NOLS’ Bruce Palmer has said, “This expedition is more than simply making history. It is an effort to build an outdoor legacy for people of color, particularly African-Americans.”


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