UREC hosted Tyrhee Moore, founder of mountain climbing nonprofit Soul Trak, to discuss his transition from mountain climbing as a hobby to leadership training and community building. Soul Trak is a D.C. based nonprofit organization designed to connect, engage and facilitate diverse communities with the outdoors.
Before Moore started Soul Trak he was an adventurer and mountaineer. He traveled to various mountain ranges and volcanoes, including Mount Denali in Alaska, Mount Aconcagua in Argentina and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Moore said that one of his biggest challenges in climbing was facing discrimination. He said climbing is predominantly a white sport, and he was often the only Black man on his climbing expeditions.
As a kid, Moore said, he would go to a summer camp in the Jackson Hole Valley in Wyoming. He went with people in a higher socioeconomic status and said he received “bad looks” and felt uncomfortable because of his race.
“I was given the worst gear,” Moore said. “[The other youth on the trip] always looked at me funny because of the color of my skin.”
Moore said mountaineering was a huge culture shock when going to different mountain ranges and volcanoes. He said he resonates with the mountaineers from villages in Kilimanjaro and Rwenzori because they had even worse climbing gear than what he was given at his camp as a kid.
“These boys and girls climb day in and day out and enjoy it without complaint,” Moore said.
He took up photography to give underrepresented climbers the recognition that they deserved, especially in the U.S.
“Nothing has come to me easy — I had to work hard for what I worked for,” Moore said.
When Moore was climbing, he said he always thought of the rewarding nature of the experience and never compared mountaineering to his regular life back in D.C. He said he translated his abilities from mountaineering to leadership by emphasizing resilience, grit and teamwork.
“In a lot of ways, we are mountain climbers in our day-to-day life,” Moore said. “We have to figure out the best way to do things and work together.”
Moore said that when he started the nonprofit in 2019, he went on on less adventure trips and focused more on engaging with the community. He said he has felt disconnected from himself and his passions when he took trips now since he’s found his love for teaching.
Moore said he understands families' struggles and lack of transportation in urban areas like D.C., so he’s made sure that he’s stayed local for his events. However, if he planned an event in the Shenandoah Valley or anywhere more than 20 minutes away from D.C., he said he would often carpool the families to the destination.
COVID-19 has affected Soul Trak’s main purpose of building communities. Moore said he teaches classes over Zoom and tries to keep everything in a virtual environment. Soul Trak’s plan is to bring people outside during the springtime when the weather is warmer.
“Unfortunately, it's easier to start with the problem and come up with the solution or remedy rather than preventive action,” Moore said.
Moore said the easiest way to impact underrepresented families is to support them. He does this by giving them transportation to events,extra tips that apply to their situation during his leadership talks and by helping to compensate for an inability to do major physical exercise.
Moore said the No. 1 problem for these families is feeling left out or unwanted and said he went through this issue when he started climbing and mountaineering. He said he found home first with climbing, and then by transitioning into helping underrepresented communities.
"Where do I find space?” Moore said. “Where do I find home?”
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