May 21, 2022
When James “KG” Kagambi was 23, he climbed Mount Kenya in his homeland, the second tallest peak in Africa — and swore he’d never do it again. “I hated it,” he recalls. “By the time I got to 15,000 feet, I had headaches.” But then he encountered a magical substance for the first time. “I just loved snow. I touched it and knew that I like this. I was looking back [at the summit] and saying, ‘You know what? I want to go back there right now.’ After that, I couldn’t stop.”
He soon left his job as a geography, music, and physical education teacher of grades 5 through 8. And for 39 years, Kagambi has climbed the peaks of the world. He’s summited Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania “so many zillion times,” Denali twice, and Aconcagua (the highest peak in the Americas), among others. He’s taught mountaineering from Patagonia to the Rockies, and he’s trained climbers and guides the world over. Then, in 2020, he was invited to join the first all-Black climbing team to summit Mount Everest.