Emilie first worked with Ascend Athletics on an exploratory expedition to the Panjshir Valley in Afghanistan in 2015. She and two other western female mountain guides worked with a group of young Afghan women that had been training and developing their leadership skills with the support of Ascend. The team climbed their first major trekking peak (and spent their first nights ever in the mountains), and Emilie guided two of the women on the first ascent of a technical alpine rock peak. The story was featured on NPR, Vice Media produced a video highlighting other aspects of the expedition, and Emilie offered her own insights on the Outdoor Research Ambassador Athlete's blog.
This past summer, Emilie again worked with Ascend and a team of young Afghan women, journalists and support climbers, to guide the team on the first Afghan women's ascent of Noshaq- the highest peak in Afghanistan at 7492m / 24,580ft. Outside Magazine recently published this account of their expedition, and a video account is coming. Emilie recently offered some of her own insights from the trip on the American Mountain Guides Association's blog.
When Emilie first went to Afghanistan, her father called me up and asked what I thought about it. Having raised (along with his wife) three independent women himself, he was implicitly supportive, but had his concerns, and like me, needed some reassurance. 'There are definitely risks, and of course I worry about her- but it's not my call. Everyone involved knows there are risks, but they still want to do it anyway, including her.'
Last year, when this expedition was in the works, he called again. 'Look at it this way,' I said. 'Are we going to tell Emilie that she has to tell these young Afghan women that she shouldn't go, because her husband and father don't want her to go?'
Exactly. Strong work Hanifa.