American Guides to Teach Climbing to Pakistani Women This Summer

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American Guides to Teach Climbing to Pakistani Women This Summer

Sharing passion for mountains and climbing overcomes cultural obstacles

Golden, Colorado – May, 2007 – "So…how will a shalwar kameez fit into a harness?"

That is one common question to Pakistani Women's Climbing Camp team members. The answer, like the answer to many questions about the ground-breaking project, is "we'll see".

The Pakistani Women's Climbing Camp, is a joint project of Alpine Club of Pakistan (ACP) and The American Alpine Club (AAC). A team of AAC representatives comprised of guides, a photographer and cinematographer – all of them women – will travel to Pakistan in July to facilitate a mountaineering course for up to 100 Pakistani women. The goal of the project, as set by the host, the ACP, is to expose women to the world of climbing and mountaineering. The women's experiences may lead to careers not previously available to them in a growing tourism industry, in mountain rescue or guiding.

An initial event, a rock climbing contest for girls, occurred a few weeks ago near Islamabad (www.dawn.com/2007/04/17/nat14.htm). Girls from several local schools (wearing pants and shirts and bare feet) scaled the walls for small prizes. The effort was the first of several organized by the ACP and Pakistan's Ministry of Tourism, culminating in the three-week mountaineering course this summer.

The course will take place on and around the Passu and Batura glaciers in Northern Hunza, followed by an attempt of 19,619-foot Kusheikh Peak near Khunjerab Pass. Training will be progressive, starting with the basics of mountain survival, travel, and safety and leading into technical rock and ice climbing as well as glacier travel and self-rescue.

Pakistan is home to some of the largest peaks on earth including K2, the world’s second highest. The climbing tourism industry continues to grow there as well as the popularity of the sport among Pakistani nationals. In general, Pakistani women have previously been unable to learn to climb as cultural norms do not allow contact between men and women who are not directly related and all the climbing instructors in Pakistan are men.

The project seeks the official endorsement of Sehba Musharraf, the First Lady of Pakistan, which will further encourage participation.

"Pakistan is the only country of the 'greater ranges' that has seen no significant ascent by one of their own countrywomen," explains AAC board member Charlotte Fox. “This is a socially acceptable attempt between our two countries to change that. The implications have the potential to be far reaching for women of vastly differing cultural circumstances. Hopefully, it will be the first of many camps.”

At a time when their cultures seem increasingly more divergent, the American Alpine Club and Alpine Club of Pakistan have found accord in the mountains for nearly thirty years. Last year’s joint earthquake relief efforts resulted in 28 tons of supplies being distributed within the earthquake zone and with funds raised, the building and outfitting of a school for girls.

"We anticipate a lot of support, considering the international political and religious implications from this ground breaking effort between our two alpine clubs," says Fox.

Funding and gear are still needed for the camp. Donations can be made through the American Alpine Club (Type 'Pakistani Women’s Climbing Camp' in the 'Comments' section so that the donation is earmarked correctly).

"The Mountain Fund has also been steadfast in its support of this trip," adds team member Janet Bergman. "They have shared their resources to help get the word to those who are interested and to bring in the needed funding to make the trip a reality."

To stay updated or learn more about the Pakistani Women's Climbing Camp, visit the AAC website and the team's blog at http://www.behno.blogspot.com/.

About the American Alpine ClubThe American Alpine Club is the premier national organization in the U.S. devoted to the multitude of issues facing rock climbers and mountaineers. For more than 100 years, the AAC has led mountaineering adventure, scientific research and education in the U.S. The Club’s active membership ranges from beginning climbers to a “who’s who” of the world’s most experienced mountaineers. The organization’s dedication to education and conservation drives dissemination of knowledge, continued study and scientific exploration of the high mountains of the world, from the Arctic Circle to the peaks of Antarctica. For more information on the AAC, and to learn how to become active in the organization and the sport of climbing, visit the AAC Web site at www.AmericanAlpineClub.org.

About the Alpine Club of PakistanAlpine Club of Pakistan (ACP) was founded in 1974, by mountain lovers, as a Non-Governmental Sports Organization and national mountaineering federation. It is dedicated to the promotion of mountaineering and mountain related activities in Pakistan. The Club aims at providing facilities, including training, to mountain and nature lovers to enjoy the boundless beauty of Pakistan’s mountains and participate in healthy adventure activities of climbing and mountaineering. The American Alpine Club and the Alpine Club of Pakistan share an exciting history starting with the first Ascent of Paiju Peak.

It was during that expedition that American climbers Al Steck, Nick Clinch and others trained local Pakistani Porters, among them Nazir Sabir and Colonel Manzoor (both of whom are the primary organizers of the women's camp this summer), and then stood back while the Pakistanis claimed the first ascent of Paiju for themselves. Later, the visiting Americans suggested the idea of creating a club and through a collaboration of American and Pakistani climbers the Alpine Club of Pakistan was born. The friendships created during those formative years have had a profound effect on all climbing in the Karakorum since. For more information about the ACP visit their website at www.alpineclub.org.pk