Andrew King loves to run up mountains, meditate on top, and then catch a few waves when he’s back at sea level. He is also on a mission to climb the world’s seven tallest peaks and the seven volcanic peaks.
If he succeeds he will be the first African American to accomplish the feat. For him, breaking through this glass ceiling is just as important as physical performance itself.
For the past five years he has quietly pursued this goal, climbing Aconcagua and Kilimanjaro, the highest peaks in America and Africa. On the way he illuminated with him the life of the communities around these climbing destinations Between worlds project.
“As a climber, I don’t see much variety in sport. And that is because of the economic barriers along with the racist barriers, ”King said. “The first mental mountain I ever climbed was leaving Detroit. dropping out of projects and being adopted by my grandparents. “
This was the stepping stone that got King to where he is today.
King had planned Mount Elbrus in Europe as his next ascent, but the coronavirus destroyed those plans. Instead, he turned his attention closer to his homeland – Pico de Orizaba in Mexico, which he climbed in October.
Despite the uncertainty of 2020, the biggest change for King and his project has been the influx of partnerships with outdoor brands, in particular HOKA ONE ONE. HOKA focuses on telling stories of underrepresented groups and empowering people to move. King’s mission was a perfect fit.
“It was the rocket fuel that the project lacked,” he said. “I wanted to take it to the point where it went beyond social media, beyond the hashtag, beyond something that will have a lifespan of 10 seconds.”
Andrew King wore the HOKA TenNine HIKE GTX until the last ascent to Pico de Orizaba (Citlaltépetl)
An amplified voice
Several brands responded to the turmoil this summer over racial injustice by sponsoring athletic activists who helped raise awareness of issues of access and diversity – both within sport and social inequality beyond.
One way HOKA did this was by handing the reins on his Instagram feed to King, who suddenly found himself in the role of social media influencer. This announcement brought new followers and additional partnerships from Black Diamond and Sea to Summit.
King credits these partners for understanding what he’s doing. He cares about the environment beyond these 14 peaks and likes that they provide context to his goals and project. Other brands approached him, but he resisted concerns about authenticity.
“I won’t be your token save-face flag during these times,” he explained.
Most importantly, partner King worked with doors open that weren’t there when he was growing up.
A new kind of support
King admits that his goal will be tough and expensive. But he sees his partners as a support system – much like the role his family played in providing structure and encouragement when he tackled previous goals like a running scholarship and graduation.
In retrospect, he calls the equipment he used on his first two peaks “a joke”. Now with shoes for running and hiking and gear for climbing and camping, he feels better prepared than ever.
“I wanted to do this 14 no matter what,” he said.
A director-level job allows him to send money to his grandparents and self-fund his project, but it still takes some time between peaks to save up for the next one. “For the first time in the decade I’ve climbed, I now feel mentally and physically grounded.”
In Mexico, King hit the mountains again in HOKAs TenNine Hike GTX boots. He’s been a fan so far. King credits the boots with an improvement in his hiking experience during preparation and on his summit of Pico de Orizaba.
“They are great. The heel support really holds things in place and supports my ankle. And then the toebox helps make sure my ankle doesn’t roll, even if I’m a little supinated.”
Between worlds project
Instead of using the peaks and peaks as a checklist, the Between worlds project tries to highlight the different living conditions in the vicinity of these climbing destinations.
The project started about 5 years ago when he was on a solo expedition that took him through Taiwan. He stopped for tea in a small mining town and started talking to a local woman who was curious about where he was from. While they were talking, he spontaneously encouraged them to visit the United States. But he immediately realized how unlikely such a trip was for her.
This made him reflect on the inequality in wealth and privilege between them.
“How would my life have been if I hadn’t been black in a country that is still trying to control what these rights mean for people with minorities?” he remembers asking himself. “I have come to the conclusion that we are all between these worlds under this glass ceiling, trying to navigate over it. We are all lottery tickets. “
From that moment on, he decided to always learn about the problems faced by the local communities when he travels to climb or surf.
Before he came to Mexico, he got the country’s situation through volunteer work. He’s usually looking for less-funded nonprofits that can benefit from exposure or at least an extra set of helping hands. In Mexico, he planned to spend time in a small, high-violence community, releasing sea turtles, and exploring a rainforest to better understand conservation issues.
These plans, like so many in 2020, were written in pencil due to coronavirus logs. King did not want to pose a risk to the communities he was going to visit because one of his core beliefs is to get out of a place better than he found it.
Follow in the king’s footsteps
The king’s journey to the top of the highest mountains and volcanoes on all continents will take time. However, the adventure seldom goes according to plan.
Follow Andrew King and his Between worlds project through his website and Instagram feed. You will notice his shoes too. These are the new ones TenNine Hike GTX boots by HOKA ONE ONE.
Three more, eleven more.
This article is sponsored by HOKA ONE ONE.