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Minnesota climbers embarking on journey to make the outdoors more inclusive

Minnesotans trying to make outdoors a more inclusive space for people of color
Minnesotans trying to make outdoors a more inclusive space for people of color 02:20

MINNEAPOLIS -- Although people of color make up nearly 40% of the U.S. population, nearly 70% of people visiting national parks and forests are white, according to data collected by the U.S. Forest, National Park and Fish and Wildlife Services.

A group of Minnesota climbers are trying to change that by setting off on a trip to make the outdoors a more inclusive space. 

The ten members of the "Flatlanders Ascent" group have been training weekly since February to embark on a trip to Washington State to climb Mount Baker (Kulshan).

"It's about setting them up with not just technical skills but creating tools for them to become community leaders," group leader Janel Rieger Chávez said. "A big part of creating this is that being a BIPOC person, mountains in general is kind of an intimidating space, they just aren't welcoming spaces, and we are trying to create that narrative." 

A lack of diversity in climbing is something Hima noticed when she first started during college. She's among the group setting out on the climb.

"This is my first time climbing with a BIPOC group and it's just been really amazing to feel like having a connection with people around you that you can relate to," Hima Hassenruck-Gudipati said.

"Getting into all this was really intimidating, really difficult to find mentors that looked like me, that could understand my community and teach me in a safe space," Rieger Chávez said.

Rodel Querubin hosts American Alpine Club's BIPOC climbing nights and said programs like this are what's needed to make the outdoors a more inclusive space.

"I always get the feedback from these types of events that without them they wouldn't think this would be for them," he said.

Being that expensive gear and travel is often a barrier for many, they're fundraising for the trip and hope to make it a yearly one.

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