Photos: Emilie Drinkwater
Since November 2014, a group of young Afghan women have been training hard for a goal much greater than themselves…to be mountain climbers. They want to reach new heights and inspire others by going where no Afghan women have gone before. On August 6, the women began their first expedition, in the Panjshir province in northeastern Afghanistan.
Over two weeks, the women climbed multiple peaks in this rugged part of the country, some reaching over 16,500 feet, higher than any Afghan woman has climbed before. A full report of the expedition’s achievements will be submitted to the American Alpine Journal. Expedition leaders Danika Gilbert of Ridgway, Colorado, and Emilie Drinkwater of Salt Lake City led the trip. In addition to climbing relatively unknown peaks, the cultural and logistical challenges in Afghanistan made this project uniquely challenging. But the Afghan team members say they are thrilled with their success. “By us climbing this mountain we can show that not just men can do this, but women can too.” Diba, team member.
The 13 Afghan women are doing much more than just climbing mountains. Supported by the Norfolk, Virginia-based NGO, Ascend: Leadership Through Athletics, they have spent many months in intensive physical training but also in the classroom, learning what it means to be leaders and role models and to work as a team. In training led by the German Civil Peace Service, the team has developed confidence by articulating their own stories as well as supporting one another.
They hope to inspire other Afghans with their story.
“We want to encourage women and girls. Afghanistan’s daughters are strong, and we are proud to host this effort in Panjshir.” – Panjshir Provincial Gov Eng. Mohammad Arif Sarwari
“We in Panjshir province are proud to host this remarkable team and we applaud this unique achievement for all Afghans.” – Bakhtiar Soresh, Panjshir Foreign Relations Secretary
The Ascend Team is based in Kabul and will continue its efforts to inspire young women to new heights. The climbers who achieved this first expedition will now serve as mentors by sharing their story with school students and community groups. They will help train the next group of climbers by teaching mountaineering skills. Finally, they will serve their communities as volunteers, working with orphans and street children in Kabul. If interested in covering this historic achievement, please contact Marina at email@example.com.
Ascend is a 501(c)3, TAX EIN 46-3380394