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The Killid Group

Climb every mountain

Written by Sohaila Wida Khamosh
Saturday, 01 October 2011 09:42

Climb every mountain She is 19. She is Afghanistan's first female mountaineer.
Sediqa Mayar Nooristani has been conquering mountains since she was 14. "I was 14 years old when my father encouraged me to climb a peak," she recalls. "I never thought I would become a mountaineer."
Sediqa has climbed in the mountains of the Hindu Kush, Pamir and the Alps, where she went in 2010 with the support of the Italian embassy and the Aga Khan Foundation. She wants the world to know Afghanistan through its high mountains. Provinces like Badakshan, Nuristan, Panjsher and Bamyan are paradise for mountaineers, she believes.
Sediqa likes to introduce herself as a third generation climber. Her grandfather Muhammad Mayar Nuristani was a mountaineer. So is her father Abdullah Mayar Nooristani, now deputy president of the Hockey Federation of Afghanistan. Sediqa, the fourth of 10 brothers and sisters from her father's two wives, is the only one to have caught the climbing bug.
Physically and mentally fit, she says climbing is not without risks. "When I have decided to climb, I also accept the risks," she told this reporter in a long interview in her home in Chehel Sotoon in Kabul. While she has suffered from bruises and near-frost bite on her hands, "so far I haven't broken any bones," she laughs.
Sediqa has grown up in Kabul. She speaks Dari, Nooristani, Pashto and English fluently. She finished high school in 2010. She applied for university admission, but has deferred it till she gets the subjects of her choice, she says.

Intensive training
Sediqa applied and was selected for an intensive course in mountaineering sponsored by the Afghan department of environment and the UN in 2005. "The first peak I climbed was Marsmir in Panjsher province," she says. The three-year training involved learning different belay techniques, rope work, self-rescue and fast multi-pitch rappels.
On the Marsmir trek, she says, her trainers - among them her father - instructed her on how to climb a small rock face. She thought it would be easy. "I underestimated it (because of its size)," she says. "Climbing that rock required extraordinary power and technique," she remembers.
For advanced training she went to Wakhan district in Badakshan province. "The training was hard, but I made it," she says, proudly. "Afghanistan is the best place to climb mountains," she thinks. "Here everything is natural." She feels that in the Alps, for instance, the mountaineer is pampered with facilities and support systems.

Close calls
She has lots of stories to tell.
On her first day of rock climbing, she says, when her father signed a no indemnity letter she thought he wanted her dead. "I thought that my father did not like me and wished my death. I wept a lot … Later I found that a guarantee is a basic requirement in such sport."
What were her most dangerous experiences?
"I was 15 years old. We were walking in the Pamir mountains," she says. "There was a narrow crevasse. It was covered with snow and ice. I stepped on it, and plunged into the hole. My instructors told me to rescue myself. Half-way up they pulled me out to safety. That was one of my most important tests."
The second hair-raising experience was in the mountains between Italy and France. "We were trekking from Italy to France. There were big cracks in the ice. I was told to go down a few metres into one of the gaps. The team was filming me as I went down, when suddenly the wall of ice started squeezing me. I shouted for help, they thought I was joking. I struggled to climb out, and I was soon exhausted. Luckily my trainers, including my father, realised I was stuck and they dug me out."
Sediqa shows me certificates of excellence in mountaineering from Italy. She was also made an honorary member of the Italian mountaineering federation, she says.
It is time to end the interview. But Sediqa has one last story to tell. "I was in Panjsher with a team of mountaineers accompanied by 20 security personnel. It was my first time. We set up camp. I was the only female at the camp when a shepherd appeared. He thought the men had kidnapped me and brought me there. He took out his gun, shouting loudly that I was his sister and he would take me to Kabul. Looking at me, he said I was not to worry. The whole situation was touch and go. Eventually my father was able to persuade him that we were all mountaineers. To him it was unbelievable that a girl was intending to climb a snow-covered peak."

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