Inspirational Afghan female climbers visit Lochaber

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The first female Afghan to scale her country’s highest peak took to the hills of Lochaber last week.

Hanifa Yousoufi, who was accompanied by her friend and colleague, Freshta Ibrahimi, is part of Ascend, an initiative that works to equip young women in Afghanistan to rise above the challenges they face in everyday life.

They are also involved with the inspiring Free to Run project, which uses adventure sports to develop female leaders in regions of conflict.

Ms Yousoufi overcame child marriage, depression and the constant threat of violence by taking part in Ascend’s mountaineering project, becoming the first woman to climb the 24,580 feet to the pinnacle of Mount Noshaq in Afghanistan.

Ms Yousoufi and Ms Ibrahimi were in the UK giving a series of talks to encourage women into the mountains, but their trip to Glencoe was for the experience of climbing in the Highlands.

The women visited the Glencoe Rescue Centre and met with renowned mountaineer Hamish MacInnes.  Ms Yousoufi and Ms Ibrahimi then climbed Buachaille Etive Mor and were excited by the green colours and the combination of mountain and sea, as their own beautiful landscape is stark in comparison.  Their visit coincided with heavy downpours but, rather than putting them off, they loved the experience of the wet.

Nancy Kennedy from Girls on Hills also met with Ms Yousoufi and Ms Ibrahimi during their visit.  She told the Lochaber Times: ‘Though we come from very different backgrounds we share the same ethos.

‘Girls to Run is also both part of the Free to Run movement, equipping women with the skills to go off on their own, empowering them to go into the mountains and be free to run.

‘Women here have similar obstacles – though not to the same extent, we don’t have the fear of violence – but family time and lack of confidence are often obstacles that we put in our path.

‘When we started Girls on Hills we thought the focus would be mainly on running, but the most rewarding aspect has been working with women who have come to us after a life event, such as divorce or illness, wanting to make a change.

‘The effects of coming out into the hills spills out into their lives. It was a pleasure to meet these inspirational women.’