Q&A: Tyrhee Moore on Tackling Denali
Washington, D.C., native Tyrhee Moore was 13 before he saw his first mountain. Now, six years later, Moore joins a group of African American climbers setting out to ascend the highest peak in North America on Expedition Denali. Brought together by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), these climbers are role models in the African American outdoor community, each having a passion for nature and a dedication to encouraging the involvement of minority groups in environmentally motivated activities.
With hopes to inspire people of color to explore, embrace, and experience the outdoors, this team of trailblazers will begin their summit of Denali in June of this year, on the 100th anniversary of the mountain's first ascent.
Sierra magazine spoke with Moore about the outdoors, being a city kid, and what he’ll do when he reaches the top of Denali.
What originally motivated you to get involved with outdoor activities?
I was in the 7th grade, and my school had this summer opportunities office. I went there looking for something to do over the summer, and they told me about some camp in Wyoming. When I went, it was my first time flying on a plane or seeing mountains. And I was wondering why didn't I know anything about that at 13. I really liked the camp so I kept going back, and they ended up giving me a scholarship for a NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) course. But if it had not been for that camp that exposed inner city kids to outdoor activities, I probably would not be doing any of this.
I understand you are one of the youngest members of Expedition Denali. As a sophomore in college, what made you want to spend a month of your summer vacation climbing a mountain rather than lying on a beach somewhere with your friends?
I can always spend time with friends, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I think that's the reason that we are climbing. It is such a good cause. Right now most of my friends don't do stuff like this, but hopefully my participation in this expedition will change that.
I think it is so much more a mental thing than a physical thing. You have to trust your own abilities. If I can climb a huge mountain, and push through the cold and pain, then the little stuff I go through back home shouldn't affect me. There are a lot of little things that transfer over into your daily life. I have really learned that people take material things too seriously. Knowing the things you need and don't need is really helpful. And being in extreme outdoor situations, you really learn that there are some things you just don't need.
What is the one thing you would hate to have to leave behind on an extreme hiking trip?
I remember one time I couldn't bring my camera. That messed with me the whole trip.
When you get to the top of Denali, what are you going to do?
I told one of my teacher I was going to try to do a back flip. But if I can't, I will just do a little dance with everybody.
You are making this climb with some really amazing people. What do you think about the members of your team?
I look up to a lot of them. The people on the team are really successful. A lot of them have great stories and have been a lot of places. I am glad to be on a team with such great role models that also look like me.
How does it feel to be part of the first group of African Americans to ascend Denali?
I feel like we are just trying to make a difference. We are trying to just go somewhere and do something that black people haven't done before. I really feel like this is an area where people of color really need to be aware. Minorities really don't get involved with this stuff. And they can't respect it if they don't get involved in it. It is bigger than just climbing. You can't blame somebody for not doing something they don't know about. To go out to do something for 30 days, like we are, is extreme. But going hiking or going on a walk is not. It is our land. It belongs to us. But we are not taking advantage of it like everyone else is.
Just be honest -- are you a little scared?
The only thing I am kind of worried about is being cold. It can make a big difference on your mood.
So you are only 19, and by the end of the year you will have climbed the highest peak in North America. You still have your whole life ahead of you, what's next?
I just want to keep going different places. I want to do everything. Climb Mount Everest. Any challenge, I am up for it. I like to push myself and do things that I might be afraid of. I may have no idea how cold it will be; how hard it will be. But I will still try.
-- by Brittany Johnson
-- Images courtesy of Tyrhee Moore