Even though Green wasn’t initially part of the summit team, he and his teammates were ultimately successful in climbing Mt. Everest, which had only been summited by 10 Black climbers prior to Full Circle’s expedition.
When he returned to the U.S. in June, Green caught up with Julbo to share his photos, talk about the experience of traveling to the Himalaya and reflect on what this expedition means for encouraging BIPOC individuals to get into the mountains.
The following is Green’s story, in his own words and photos.
I WAS THERE TO CAPTURE THE EXPERIENCE and the uniqueness of the team. Personally, my goal was to survive, make the most of the trip and be able to hang with everyone. I wasn’t initially planning to go to the summit, just with the permitting and budget for the team, but I ended up getting the opportunity to summit. That was really, really special.
EVERYONE WHO WAS LEFT ON THE EXPEDITION was able to make it to the top and come back down—we were really successful. I think Manoah [Ainuu] was probably the first non-Nepali, non-Sherpa to summit for the year—not just from our team but of everyone this whole season.
WE WERE REALLY FORTUNATE WITH THE WEATHER WINDOW. We were sitting in base camp, trying to compare all these forecast models and see what the best opportunity would be. We had a great window where it was sunny and with relatively low winds for about three days when we were climbing. That was a huge help.
YOU CAN SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE WEATHER GOES BAD. I mean, there were tents that had been completely ripped from the frame—just the frame still standing—and shreds of gear everywhere. You can see, when the wind picks up, just how deadly it is. But on a nicer weather day with oxygen, it was really pretty manageable.
I'VE BEEN IN THE MOUNTAINS A LOT, but nothing above 14,000 feet. Doubling that was a pretty big change for me, dealing with that elevation and everything. It was definitely a lot more challenging than what I’m used to shooting just because it was colder—just taking your hand out of a glove can be pretty difficult.
NORMALLY, WHEN YOU'RE MOUNTAINEERING, it’s you and a small team or maybe a couple other people. But there was a different sort of pressure: If I stopped to take a photo, then I was actually slowing up the entire line that’s climbing the mountain. You’ve got to be really quick and efficient, I found. Normally I can be like, ‘Oh, let’s go off to the side of the trail or get a shot across the valley or whatever.’ But you’re just kind of stuck on the standard route, so your compositions are really looking at someone’s face or someone’s back.
THE SUN WAS SUPER HARSH. As soon as it came up, the lighting was super harsh, bouncing off the snow. You couldn’t even use a low aperture. My shutter speed was maxed out and still overexposed sometimes. It was kind of tricky…tricky settings.
IT WAS REALLY COOL TO SEE ALL THE SUPPORT and everyone cheering for the project. I wasn’t really sure how it was going to go because, especially in recent years, it seems like a lot of people’s opinions on Everest have soured, just because of the business of Everest and the crowds. But it was cool to see people supporting us and to feel the psych on us reaching that high point.
WE HAD A GREAT SHERPA TEAM HELPING US, but it's still you. You’ve gotta get your own two legs up there and deal with the elements. It's still challenging, no matter what you do.
KG (James Kagambi, age 62 and now the first Kenyan to summit Everest) was one of the most important parts of the team, in my opinion. He just has so much energy and is a great person to be in the mountains with. He’s super passionate, and he’s cracking up and dancing and smiling and making jokes. But he also has this background of guiding and medical experience. He was the go-to person for a lot of people and has a great team-building mentality. It was really cool to be working with him.
IT'S JUST REALLY, REALLY SPECIAL to be part of this team and everything it represents. I'm trying to bring more diversity and encouraging the BIPOC community to get outside—if they’re interested in climbing, to give it a try. I’d never left the country until I went to Nepal, so it was cool for me to experience the different cultures and be in the biggest mountains in the world. It was a great privilege and an amazing opportunity.