Betika back retired teacher Kagambi’s mission to scale imposing Mt Everest

James Kagambi (right) with Evans Mwiti at the base of Point Batian on top of Mt Kenya. They were part of a team that took the national flag to the top of Mt Kenya to the mark Kenya’s 50th anniversary celebrations on December 11, 2013. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • 62-year-old is the first beneficiary this year of betting firm’s community engagement programme
  • James Kagambi, Mt Everest, Betika, Betika Na Community, Phil Henderson,

On April 5, James Kagambi will embark on a journey that remains on the bucket list of many.

The 62-year-old retired teacher is the first beneficiary this year of Betika’s community engagement programme in which the sports gaming company seeks to support countrywide grassroots sports initiatives.

Kagambi, popularly known as “KG” will travel to the Himalayas as part of the Full Circle Everest Expedition (FCEE) team with an all-black cohort of climbers that seeks to become the first all-black team to scale to the summit of Mt Everest, the highest mountain on the planet.

The 70-day trip, fully funded by Betika through the “Betika Na Community” initiative, will see the FCEE team join a group of US veterans on the history-making journey.

Led by Phil Henderson, an experienced mountaineer and 30-year veteran of the outdoor industry, the team has built its expedition around far more than attaining a summit.

It’s an effort to steer away from the narrative of mountaineering, climbing and simply enjoying the outdoors to one that is more inclusive for future generations.

It’s about showing that the outdoors is a space for everyone.  It’s about elevating and inviting new faces into the mix.

“For KG, what has been a highly rewarding but purely personal pursuit for the last 34 years has turned into another avenue for him to influence and inspire alongside a diverse, but unified team of expedition members,” said Nicholas Mruttu, the Betika Chief Executive Officer.

Founder and owner

“We are happy to take him up under our wings and steer him to achieve his wildest dreams of summiting Mt. Everest.

Kagambi began his guiding career in Kenya at the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) as a field instructor in 1987.

He worked in Africa, Chile, India and the United States as a back-packing, climbing and mountaineering instructor, spending over 700 weeks (13 cumulative years) as an outdoor educator.  Aa a senior mountaineering instructor, Kagambi has regularly worked in NOLS’ mountaineering programmes in Patagonia, Alaska, East Africa and India.

His is the founder and owner of guiding company KG Mountain Expeditions and on December 12, 2013, he was among five people who made it to Mt Kenya’s point Batian, the second highest point in Africa, to hoist the Kenyan flag to mark 50 years of independence.

The others were Evans Mwiti, Simon Thumuni, Kenneth Kimanthi and Laban Wanjohi.

They later met with President Uhuru Kenyatta to celebrate the feat.

Kagambi was the first black African to summit the Denali, North America’s highest mountain peak (elevation of 6,190 metres above sea level) in 1989 and was also the first black African to summit the Aconcagua, the highest summit in the Americas (6,961 metres above sea level) in 1994.

He is actively involved in training Kenya’s mountain rescue teams and has also completed three of the world’s seven highest summits.

In 1992 represented Africa in the United Nations Peace Climb for the world on the Eiger (3,976m), one of the world’s most famous peaks in the Swiss Alps.

His patience and teaching ability grew from his experience as a grade school teacher, coaching sports, and teaching traditional African music.  Since the first person climbed onto the Mt. Everest summit in 1953, over 10,000 have set crampons a top the mountain, which is the world’s tallest, but less than 10 of them are black.

Betika’s sponsorship includes Kagambi’s training, travel allowances and insurance, as well as all operational logistics. 

“The sponsorship is in line with the gaming firm’s commitment to nurture Kenyan sportsmen across the country to give them a push towards achieving both their goals and putting Kenya on the global spotlight,” Betika said in a statement last week And speaking at the sponsorship announcement, Kagambi was grateful.

“Betika is the most visible sports sponsor in the country, and I’m delighted to have them supporting me,” he said.

“Last year, I watched Betika sponsoring the four Kenyan rally drivers during the WRC Safari Rally, and this year I am the beneficiary.

“I never thought anyone would notice me or my efforts to do the most daring thing I have looked forward to all my life.”

Kagambi maintains that mountaineering is an expensive undertaking, as much as it’s risky and requiring serious commitment.

“Mountaineering is not cheap… Just getting a climbing permit - that typically includes transportation from Kathmandu or Lhasa - food, base camp tents, Sherpa (local guides) support and supplemental oxygen costs more than Sh2 million,” he explained. “I know so many good climbers who are looking forward to conquering Mt. Everest but lack the funds or the skill. I have trained for months both locally and in Nepal.”

He remains confident her will conquer the imposing mountain and appeals for further support from individuals and corporates alike to help him achieve his dream.

“I will try my best to Summit Mt. Everest. When companies like Betika come to support people like us with extreme dreams, we get motivated to do better, to keep the fight and the love of the sport.  We have had months of training and I will strive to summit Mt. Everest as the first all-black team and as the only Kenyan in the team of 10.”

In a recent interview with the climbing-com website, Kagambi said his dream is to simply be on top of Mt. Everest and to win more recognition for the sport of climbing.
“A successful expedition is not just the summit — it’s going up and coming back down alive. It’s also about engaging with the world, encouraging one another, and maintaining friendships beyond the scope of the expedition,” he said.

He wants to see more recognition for climbing as a sport. “In Kenya, we tend to recognize athletics such as football, rugby, and motoring, but not mountaineering. It’s time for the government to step up and recognize it as a sport.”

The “Betika Na Community” was launched in 2019 as the company’s corporate social responsibility initiative whose objective is “to support Kenyans who pursue adventures through sports and embody the values of sportsmanship, risk taking, excitement and passion.”

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