Denali’s first black summit immortalized at the Mountaineering Museum

The Portrait of Charles Crenchaw aims to honor the first black climber to reach the summit of Denali and to shed light on the outdoor community’s long-standing blindness to diversity issues.

In the summer of 1964, Charles Crenchaw became the first black peak in Denali, the highest peak in North America. It will be 57 years before the pioneering mountaineer’s feat received the recognition enjoyed by his non-ethnic contemporaries.

This is because this week, the art exhibition, Something higher, will open to the public at American Mountaineering Museum in Golden, Colorado. And the centerpiece of the exhibit will feature an original portrait of Crenchaw – a combined effort of the outdoor industry, comprising an artist, journalist and major brands.

Denali’s First Black Summit: Charles Madison Crenchaw

Charles Madison Crenchaw was remarkable for many things. The Seattle man first served as a flight engineer in the Army Air Corps. In his post-service life, Crenchaw enjoyed a distinguished career as an aeronautical engineer with Boeing Aircraft.

In his spare time he was an avid climber and a constant student of the craft. At the time of his rise to Denali, Crenchaw was only 3 years deep in the discipline.

The original painting debuted on August 5 for industry professionals at the grand opening Big gear show in Park City, Utah. It then premiered in Colorado a week later in the summer Outdoor retailer in Denver.

Charles Crenchaw’s legacy

The portrait is the result of somewhat improbable college work. Journalist James edward mills is credited with designing the portrait, a visual tribute to accompany his chronicle of Crenchaw’s ascents. Utah based artist Lamont White transcribes this concept to oversized canvas and adventure brands Outdoor research and Seirus commissioned the project.

The result is a subtly evocative and humiliating commemorative entry into the imperfect rooms of the best moments of mountaineering. As the official custodian of the painting, James Mills says he intends to circulate the piece across the United States after the exhibition. After all, the coin was never designed for the sole purpose of commemoration.

To borrow from Mike Carey of Seirus, “[The] the commemoration of Charles Crenchaw in this story and this portrait will serve as a lasting example of what people can accomplish, if given a chance. Raising Your Inspirational Story… sends the message of rightful belonging to the outdoor community, encourages diverse participation and inspires genuine welcome.

You can see the exhibition, Something higher, now at American Mountaineering Museum Bradford Washburn in Golden, Colorado.

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