Growing the Outdoor Space with Eddie Taylor

In 2022 the first all-Black crew will attempt to summit Everest. One of the team members joins me to discuss how better visibility makes for a more welcoming community.

  
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Welcome Back to Trail Talk

During these interview podcast posts, I share stories from other members of the outdoor community. Range from wild adventures, to survival skills, conservation, and current events.

Look for episodes in your mailbox Sunday mornings at 9 a.m., MST. The stories you’re used to seeing will still arrive at the usual time, Thursday mornings.

EP 05: Eddie Taylor, Teacher and Mountaineer

Ever since Eddie’s friend convinced him to try climbing, he’s been hooked. Now, he’s part of a skilled team setting out to inspire others.

Of the thousands of climbers to reach the world’s highest peak, only a handful were Black. Eddie, and the other members of Full Circle Everest endeavor to change that.


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Establishing a Community Connection

Most of us take for granted how we got started in the outdoors. I come from an outdoor family: my grandfather brought Cub Scout sign up forms to the hospital the day I was born, and I took my first backpacking trip at 9 years old.

Not everyone has a friend or family member introduce them to the outdoor community. As Eddie explains: someone’s spark of interest can be quickly extinguished if they feel they don’t belong.

“If you don’t have that family connection, and then you don’t have that community connection by looking further… you don’t see anyone who looks like you doing those things, so then that obviously isn’t a place for you — I think that’s what a lot of people end up feeling.”

Eddie hopes this trip could be that point of inspiration that helps other Black hikers feel more welcome on the mountains, trails, and crags.

Interview Notes

0:45 — Eddie’s first climbing trip
1:45 — The cycle of inspiring others
2:45 — Becoming immersed in the climbing community
4:10 — Full Circle Everest: how the team formed
7:00 — Growing as a team throughout the training process
9:00 — The full trip in context: setting your goals.
10:00 — Telling the story for the next generation of climbers
13:30 — Creating a welcoming community connection
15:45 — Getting into the outdoors from scratch
17:00 — Having healthy and productive hobbies
18:45 — Fighting back against “locals only” culture
23:00 — Helping the community with crag etiquette
24:00 — Welcoming people into your spaces
26:00 — Being friendly by being normal
29:00 — Supporting the expedition


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Growing the Community Sustainably

One of the enormous challenges of an ever-growing outdoor community is a proportionately-increasing impact on open spaces. I’ve written extensively about the issue at places like Maroon Bells, Quandary, and Steven’s Gulch.

The reaction to this has largely been a rise in a gatekeeping “locals only” culture.

Eddie makes a few great points about this:

  1. Discovering a cool spot doesn’t give you ownership of it

  2. If the landscape really is that fragile, no one should be going there

  3. Community building is the best tool for spreading “leave no trace” principles

“I don’t think people are trying to act to be destructive,” Eddie said. “Sometimes it’s just lack of knowledge.”

Not everyone has access to the same outdoor training, or upbringing. Being friendly is the first step in getting people excited to come back, adventure, and in turn, learn more.

That said, there’s a fine line between friendly and off-putting.

In our discussion, Eddie explains despite being a regular at a popular crag, other climbers still ask if he's brand new.

“Someone will see me, and be like: ‘oh are you here straight from the gym? Are you here for this diversity initiative?’”

Having a general and genuine welcoming attitude — without making assumptions about other climbers and hikers — is key.

“The Summit is a Bonus”

Everest is quite literally a lofty goal. But as we’ve discussed repeatedly here on Trail Talk: putting all the emphasis on that final step is misguided.

For Eddie, this expedition is about ten accomplished climbers coming together and telling a story to inspire the next generation of climbers.

Like many others, I’m eagerly awaiting what the next chapter in that story holds.