James Kagambi: Meet The 62 Year Old Who Became The First Kenyan To Climb Mt Everest

James Kagambi: Meet The 63 Year 0ld Who Became The First Kenyan To Climb Mt Everest
James Kagambi Photo/Courtesy

Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world reaching an altitude of 29,032 feet above sea level. Situated right at the border of Nepal and Tibet at the crest of the Great Himalayas, it is considered as the toughest mountain to climb since the summit reaches at around the altitude of jet airliners and oxygen level there is very low. On Thursday 12th May 2022, Kenyan James Kagambi broke the record by becoming the first Kenyan to reach the summit of Mount Everest after a 40 days journey.

Here is the story of the 62 year old as told by WoK.

James Kagambi Career

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James Kagambi famously known as KG is a retired teacher and founder of KG Mountain Expeditions – an organization he founded in August 1994. The organization trains and guides individuals on how to climb Mount Kenya, Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Ruwenzori among other East African mountains. KG Began his career as a school teacher, sports coach and traditional African music tutor before quitting to pursue his passion in mountain climbing. He started his mountaineering career in 1987 as a field instructor at National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). He would later work in different countries such as Chile, Kenya and the United States as a climbing, backpacking and mountaineering instructor spending over 13 years in the field.

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He has participated in several mountaineering programs in Patagonia, Alaska, India and East Africa and represented Africa in the United Nations Peace Climb for the world on the Eiger in 1992. He has completed three of the world’s tallest summits, summited the Eiger three times, and was the first African to summit Denali in 1989 and the first black African to summit Aconcagua in 1994. He has also led other mountain climbs including the Expedition Denali which was the first African American expedition to Denali.

Climbing Mount Everest

Mt Everest is not only the tallest mountain in the world but one of the toughest to climb and this was a challenge James Kagambi was ready to take. The journey began in February 2022 when he announced his plans to hike the tallest mountain in the world after 30 plus years of preparation. He started his 70-day challenge with an uphill task of trying to secure a sponsor for his climb since mountaineering is yet to be recognized as a sport in Kenya. He would luckily get a last minute sponsorship from sports betting company – Betika through their initiative dubbed ‘Betika na Community.’ The journey would later begin on Monday 4th April 2022 with the whole team named ‘Full Circle’ which was led by Phil Henderson – an experienced mountaineer. KG was the only non-American member of the ‘Full Circle’ group that aimed to become the first all-black group to reach the peak of Mount Everest. After spending 40 days on the mountain, the group successfully reached the summit on Thursday 12th 2022 and are now slowly making their way back to the ground. While speaking to Betika officials through a satellite phone from the peak of the mountain, the 63 year old was more than happy.

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“I made it! I did it, we did it and I cannot thank Betika enough for believing in my wild dreams. Every mountain is different. I respect mountains and Everest has favored us and we summited. We have made history as the first all-black team to do so. It’s not about the point reached but how I got there. This was fun and I hope this expedition is a spectacle for that seed of aspiration. Because for me, I didn’t know I would make it this far with my old age and weak knees, but I pushed myself to the next level. Africans should know that this space exists for them too. Thank you to everyone who has supported and prayed for me,” he joyfully said.

Upon his return from Nepal, he is set to meet President Uhuru Kenyatta. He is expected to push for mountaineering to be officially recognized as a sport In Kenya. Other members of the ‘Full Circle’ group include Lhakpa Sherpa who has climbed Everest ten times, Phil Henderson who is the leader of the team, Manoah Ainuu, Fred Campbell, Abby Dione, Thomas Moore, Desmond ‘Dom’ Mullins, Rosemary Saal and Eddie Taylor.

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