Although the film Everest, the fictionalized version of the 1996 Everest season that resulted in the deaths of 13 people, features leading men Jake Glyllenhal and Josh Brolin, Hollywood producers should consider putting Sophia Danenberg’s story on the big screen. Danenberg is the first Black woman to climb atop Mount Everest and just the second person of African descent to conquer the world’s tallest mountain.
Danenberg was born Sophia Marie Scott in 1972 and raised in Chicago’s south suburb of Homewood to a Black father and Japanese mother. Although she was a track athlete while attending Homewood-Flossmoor High School, Danenberg didn’t discover mountain climbing until she was a student at Harvard University. After scaling mountains in the states, Danenberg began to take the sport seriously and tackled several summits across the globe.
Danenberg set her sights on Everest in the spring of 2006 at the age of 34. With just a week to prepare for the dangerous two-month journey, Danneberg and eight others took what is known as an “unguided” climb up the Nepalese mountain. Danneberg carried her own gear, pitched her own tent, and had the help of two Sherpas. Without a guide, Danneberg relied mostly on her own wits and experience climbing smaller but still formidable mountains. On May 19, 2006, Danenberg completed the 29,000 foot climb.
Other mountains Danenberg bested include McKinley in Alaska, Mount Tasman in New Zealand, Mount Baker in Washington State, and Kilimanjaro alongside her husband, David Danenberg who joined her on some of the climbs.
But the potentially deadly climb was not at all easy for Sophia. In fact, when she reached the peak, she was suffering from bronchitis, a stuffed nose, frostbite on her face, and a clogged oxygen mask. Nonetheless, she made it to the top and made it back alive.
She has also successful climbed other famous mountains including Mount Tasman (in New Zealand), Mount Kilimanjaro (in Tanzania), Mount Rainier in Washington State, and Mount Kenya (yes, in Kenya).
Also a business woman
Sophia, however, is more than just a mountaineer. A graduate of Harvard University, she works for Boeing as an aerospace industry expert in global chemical and environmental regulations. Her job is to advise the corporation on EH&S policy developments and interfacing with global trade associations, governments, the United Nations, OECD, APEC and other intergovernmental organizations.
Prior to launching her career, Sophia was a researcher-writer for a travel guide in Thailand and a Fulbright Fellow in environmental economics at Keio University in Tokyo.
She didn’t go on her first hike until she was in college when she went rock climbing with a friend.