Escaping the Taliban: Afghan Women Find Home in Climbing

The women of Ascend find solace in the climbing community of Yosemite

Feature type Video

Published Mar 30, 2023

Base editorial team
BASE editorial team BASE writers and editors who live and breathe adventure every day. We love adventure storytelling as much as we love adventure itself.

An international not-for-profit organisation, Ascend was created in order to empower young women through mountaineering-based leadership training and community service. Having founded originally in Afghanistan, it was its programs with Afghan women that first gained momentum as well as global recognition.

For Mina Bakhshi, Haniya Tavasoli and Rabia Hussai, joining Ascend, gave them the chance to test their personal and cultural limits and explore the mountains of their home country. In August 2021, when the country fell to the Taliban, Ascend became their one chance to escape a regime that would restrict their freedoms and future.

While the women of Ascend were being resettled in other countries with volunteer host families from Ascend’s network – often other climbers wanting to help – Merryn Venugopal and Michelle Pellette, two members of Yosemite Search and Rescue, were also looking to find ways to support fellow climbers in need. They invited the women to spend a week in Yosemite, where they could safely reunite and find solace in the climbing community.

Now, as they build new lives in a country separated from their families, the women find that connecting with other climbers in Yosemite is also a connection to home.

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