February 9, 2023

First Latin black woman reaching the top of Everest

Author image

Aretha Duarte, Brazil

A travelling mountaineer, high mountain guide, socio-environmental entrepreneur

“I want to bring more women into the mountains!”

Hi, Aretha! Tell us a bit about yourself!

I´m Aretha Duarte, I am from Campinas in Brazil. I started hiking in the mountains in2005, 6 years later, I became a socio-environmental entrepreneur and coached people who want to hike in high mountains. In March 2021, I was able to climb to the top of Mount Everest (8.849km), the highest mountain in the world. I to be the first Latin black woman to make it. Apart from Everest, I’ve also climbed up many other mountains. For example, Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Americas, Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, Elbrus in Russia and Mount Roraima in Venezuela.


Tell us something that you strongly believe in?

The mountains are for everyone! It doesn´t matter if you are a man or a woman, how old you are or if you are experienced enough. The most important thing is that you are prepared and explore with security.

It is very important that we should be more conscious of the nature while we explore into the woods.

We are very interested in how your journey to Everest started, tell us a little bit more…

I always love to be in the nature, climbing mountains and working in projects related to sustainability, especially recycling. I also love to share my experiences to inspire others to get into adventure.

In the past, I´ve never thought of going up to Everest, it seemed a bit superficial to me, something people usually do for their own ego, and way too expensive. However, when I saw the image of Silence Valley one day, my mind changed, and I felt determined that Everest was my goal.

During my journey, to get the money and my physical preparation, I figure it out that climbing Everest was not more just a personal project. I realized that I was leading and opening future opportunities for women, black people and also for people from favelas. I didn´t have the money. However, I worked to get it, I created my own opportunities. I would like to show that everything is possible, but we must work for it.

As a black woman from the suburb area of Brazil without much opportunity, making my way to Everest was not easy. Therefore, I was trying my best to create opportunity myself and I’d like to show the world that everything is possible.  To fund the expedition, I started a sustainability project, which was to collect cans in Campinas to recycle with local company. I was hoping what I did could encourage more people to do things better for our planet. Especially when it comes to things to do with Everest, there are a lot could be done to protect the environment there. Over 13 months, I collected around 130 tons of cans to recycle. And while working on my sustainability project for Everest, I started to receive funding and sponsor from other companies who loved the concept of my sustainability project and wanted to support my expedition.

What was your biggest fear before Everest?

When I decided to climb Everest, I was aware that there might be possibility to die. Mentally, I got myself prepared for any extreme situation, for example, for coldness, for lack of oxygen.

Though the camping base was far away from nearby avalanches; they still can happen during the hike, and it is hard to survive one avalanche. I found five bodies during my expedition…

Have you come across any challenges on the way?

Yes, I suffered preconception for being a black woman trying to climb Everest as most people that climb are men. During my life on work, I was always protected before arriving by my friends so I would not suffer with preconception. I was prepared to suffer preconception from people from Nepal, as they are really patriarch. However, nothing happened they were amazing and supported a lot me. The problem happened with a Brazilian guy, someone that was in the expedition of 54 days with me. He was doing, acting and saying rude words for me and about me. First, I tried to ignore and solve my problems, but in the end people around me noticed what was happened and killed the problem. In the end, the expedition was successful.


What’s your plan after Everest?

After the expedition, I wrote my book that talks about all my journey from the beginning to the end of Mount Everest. Only 25 Brazilians reached the summit of Everest. Only 5 women. No black people. That was the reality until May 23, 2021, when around 10:24 (Nepali time), 01:39 (Brasilia time), I became the first black Latin American woman in history to arrive in the highest place in the world, printing a message that is especially powerful in the times in which we live: dreaming is necessary, because we all have the raw internal power to conquer the "Everest" we want.

I plan to climb more mountains and I would like to help more women who want to it.  I believe Everest was just the beginning.

Asa socio-environmental entrepreneur, I would like to contribute to make the world a better place. I’d like to start from where I come from, a favela from southwest of Campinas. I want to turn all favela into eco-communities. A place that they would be able to generate renewable energy and do recycling. Creating a better space and opportunities for local economy where they could work with something that they like and make a difference over there. Also showing local people the importance of nature so they could have a better connection.


If you could change one thing in the world for the better, what would it be?

Firstly, keep hiking and climbing mountains around the world. This is one thing that I am passionate about it, I would not stop doing it.

Secondly, when you analyse the percentage of people that hike or climb a mountain, you realize that the majority are men. There are not enough women in the mountain for a lot of different reasons. We need to empowerment women to chase their dreams and do adventurous around the world. The mountains are for everyone, even though some people do not believe on it. It is not about climbing Everest but believing in yourself and growing in the process. It is about getting a space in the mountains and keep inspiring even more women to do it.

Third, but not less important is about the cost. Going to a high mountain is very expensive, for example when someone wants to climb Everest summing all costs you have to invest around $60 thousands. Also, to climb it you have to climb some other high mountains before, so it is more cost. When you think about the reality of most people around the world, they cannot afford it. If there is any way that people could make it for free, being sponsored or even less expensive would be amazing. This way would be more affordable for people in a financial way.

Would you like to share your stories with us?

Please contact Fer for more information:f.dossantos@addverve.com


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