Life of Mountaineering Pioneer, Charles Crenchaw, Honored with Exhibit from Keystone Coalition

Photo courtesy of Janelle Paciencia.

Charles Crenchaw is a mountaineering pioneer, even though few people know his name. Crenchaw was the first black American to summit Denali (then called Mount McKinley) on July 9, 1964. To honor his life and accomplishments, Next 100 Colorado, a coalition facilitated by Keystone Policy Center dedicated to establishing a more just and inclusive parks and public lands system in Colorado, launched “Something Yet Higher,” a new exhibit at the American Mountaineering Museum on Feb. 6.

“It’s…about celebrating leaders and pioneers whose stories aren’t as well known,” said Mallory Huggins, senior project director with Keystone and Next 100 facilitator, said to Seth Bolster of the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Of Crenchaw, Bolster writes: “In a 1963 profile in Ebony Magazine, he considered himself ‘no better or worse than hundreds of other weekend climbers with the same degree of experience.’ That was despite his several ascents of Mount Rainier and other soaring peaks just beyond his Seattle home.”

The Feb. 6 launch event gathered Next 100 Colorado members, allies, and others interested in outdoor equity to view the exhibit and hear from leaders in today’s climbing world. Speakers included James Mills, founder of the Joy Trip Project and author and co-writer/co-producer of the documentary “An American Ascent;” and Yesica Chavez, student coordinator for Environmental Learning for Kids and founder of Las Chicas Que Escalan.

Next 100 Colorado has also begun recruitment for a pilot mentorship program for leaders of color and continues to meet regularly with state leaders to find community and inspiration at the intersection of equity and the outdoors.