Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

African American team attempts to climb the world's tallest peaks

when the U.S. boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Ellis heard through the grapevine that two other black climbers were looking for a third, equally passionate party for the project, which has been seven months in planning.

Companies such as Volvo, Pepsi, and Hewlett-Packard have donated cars and money to the Pioneer Climbers for the expensive expeditions. (At this writing, the team expects to have completed Mount Elbrus in Russia.)

Basic equipment — outerwear, crampons (climbing irons), and boots — can cost upward of $1,000, while travel for the year can run close to $40,000. A trip up Mount Everest can cost $65,000.

There’s also the cost of time spent away from families. Shobe and Ellis are both married; Ellis also has a daughter. When he’s climbing, Boston leaves behind a Siamese cat. Each trip can take three weeks to several months.

The journey up is hard, but it’s filled with rewards. Recalling his first trip to Aconcagua, Boston says: “I was suffering from dysentery. I was alone. But when I finally reached the summit, I cried like a baby.”

You can visit these gentlemen at the Pioneer Climbers Expedition Website

Getting Started

  • GET IN SHAPE: “The skills are not difficult to learn,” says Dr. Jean Ellis. “Just be fastidious. It’s like climbing an unlimited number of stairs. You do have to be in good physical condition.”
  • TAKE A CLASS: You can learn the basics on maneuvering terrain and balance by taking rock-climbing classes at a gym. Check out for information on climbing gyms. The guys work out at Rock City Climbing Center in Anaheim Hills, California.
  • DO RESEARCH: The Pioneer Climbers recommend Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer (Alfred A. Knopf; $13); Tales from the Steep by John Long (Globe Pequot Press; $14.95); and Climbing Adventures: A Climber’s Passion by Jim Bridwell (Globe Pequot Press; $16.50).
  • VISIT for information and pictures on the world’s tallest mountains.
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