First Ascent: Afghan Woman Summits Mt. Noshaq

On August 10, Hanifa Yousoufi became the first Afghan woman to summit 7,492m Mt. Noshaq, her country’s highest peak. The 24 year-old Yousoufi was part of a climbing expedition assembled by Ascend, a U.S.-based nonprofit that uses climbing to help young women in troubled countries.

One of five yearly mountaineering trips for women in Afghanistan. Photo: Ascend

Located in the remote Wakhan Corridor in the country’s northeast, Noshaq — a Dari word meaning Nine Valleys — was first climbed in 1960 by a Japanese team. In 1973, it also became the world’s first 7,000m peak to be scaled in winter. Since then, a small number of international teams have sought first ascents in this isolated range bordering Pakistan, China and Tajikistan.

More than just a climb, Yousoufi’s effort will inspire Afghan women in a country that has experienced decades of conflict and friction over conservative norms.

“I did this for every single girl,” she said afterward. “The girls of Afghanistan are strong”.

Some of the Afghan team on a training trip. Yousoufi’s ascent is the second notable mountaineering achievement for that country: In 2009, Malang Darya and Amruddin Sanjar became the first Afghans to summit Noshaq. Photo: Ascend