A South Florida woman is off for a historic journey as she embarks with the first all-Black team to take on Mount Everest.
Abby Dione is challenging herself and all of us to cast away any fears and go for it. She spoke exclusively with NBC 6 about the climb aimed at opening the outdoors to people of all backgrounds.
"A stillness — calm. That’s how I feel," Dione said as she prepares to take on 29,032 feet of Mount Everest.
Dione spoke to us between training kids and adults at her Coral Cliff’s rock climbing center near Fort Lauderdale’s airport. She’s out to do something that’s never been done — make it to the summit of Mount Everest with an all-Black team.
“On a personal level what has motivated me is actually stretching the outer limits. Growth happens right outside of your comfort zone," she said. "So, growth for me as an individual, the goal is to stretch and make room for this project in my life has been challenging, and it's been a wonderful learning experience for me."
Dione's been getting ready for months, along with the other nine climbers — including an Iraq war vet and science teacher.
“My training involves a lot of strength training — a lot of mobility," Dione said.
One thing Dione doesn’t have at her gym is an altitude chamber, but she does have one of those at her home. Since October, she’s been sleeping in it every night to get her body adjusted to the amount of oxygen she will actually take in as she moves up the mountain and tries to get to the top of Everest.
“It essentially simulates oxygen concentrations of altitudes up to 19,000 feet. So, it allows me to strain and stimulate my body so that you can adapt to those conditions and make the necessary changes so that when I do go there, my body doesn’t struggle as much,” she said.
But what has been a struggle for the climbers is funding their journey. The cost is anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 each.
“It’s been a scramble to find sponsors, get the word out to the community, set up a Gofundme — collaborate with folks that want to help us realize this mission which is to bring the outdoors to folks that don’t normally get that access,” Dione said.
On Friday, Dione will fly from Miami to Doha, Qatar, then to Kathmandu — the capital of Nepal — then to Lukla, Nepal — the furthest modern transportation can go. They will spend several weeks at their base camp before the final trek.
Once there, “All we can do is to be prepared," she said. "I will be prepared by May 10 to be able to summit, meaning, I will have gone through all of my climatization circuits. Mother Nature will let me know when that weather window is.”
The team hopes people in urban areas will see them and decide that the wilderness is for them too.
“I do believe that systems are in place that make things very difficult for folks to experience certain things, and it's generally based on where you’re from, what you look like, and so on, but those systems aside, I mean, I would love for folks to spite those systems kind of give themselves that permission to go and explore,” Dione said.
Every few months, the Big Brothers program brings kids to Dione's gym for an experience most of them never considered.
“I would love to encourage folks to allow themselves to do things — and try things — take the risk, but we know that’s not always possible when you are trying to just survive," she said. "So, I have a lot of compassion. So, I am trying to help bring back imagination and inspiration around these things — maybe wake that side up.”
Learn more about the Full Circle Everest Expedition here.