Afghan girls tell it to the mountain

A group of girls from Kabul are steadiliy walking up the beautiful Pamir range.

At an altitude of over 6000 meters these monutains are no easy hike. They demand preparation, perservation and focus. Who would have thought that young girls from Afghanistan would venture up such a trek? However, increasingly they are doing so. And there is an apparatus there to assist them.

Ascend Athletics Norway is a non-profit and international organization working in the field of mountain climbing. Interestingly, they use mountain climbing as a means of empowering people in underprivileged areas. Since 2013 they have engaged afghan young women to join mountain expeditions in their own home country.

Afghanistan being a conservative society, recruiting and preparation are not an easy endeavour. Recruiting is time consuming. It requires extensive interaction and discussions with the girl´s families. But as the 19-year participant Halima says in an interview: «My parents have always supported me, and they are supporting me in this as well». However, the girls who elect to participate in a mountain expedition are mostly obliged to train and excercise in secret in Kabul. Sports activities among females are not well looked upon, even in relatively urban settings.

This summer the Norwegian mountain climbers are taking along five young afghan women. The girls will attempt to climb a 6000 meter high mountain in the Afghan Pamir Mountains. Otherwise known as «the roof of the world» the route offers impressive obstacles like glaciers, that will need to be traversed. The expedition will be documented with pictures and films to be published in Afghan as well as in international media.

The team are excited and feel this type of expedition has an inspirational effect in a war torn country. They write on their web page that: «The girls will be an important symbol of what is possible to do as an Afghan woman. The project wants to inspire other Afghans and show solidarity and athletic achievement in a time of national crisis and widespread concern for the future. A universally understood achievement such as reaching a mountain top, expands the limits of what Afghan women are able to do. It sets an example for young people in Afghanistan.»

At the moment Ascend Athletics Norway are working hard to fund this and future projects. It is to be hoped that they can extend this bridge building and ascending work.

- Jørgen Flatabø

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All photos courtesy of Ascend athletics Norway