expedition 11

Check out this epic aerial battle between a bald eagle & two gulls. David Canales captured this once-in-a-lifetime photo from his kayak on Prince William Sound in Alaska while on an 11-day expedition from Valdez to Whittier. Photo courtesy of David Canales.

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The moment on top of an Afghan mountain peak was one of bittersweet triumph for 20-year-old Shopirai Otmonkhel and her friend Zahra Karimi Nooristani, 18. The budding mountaineers from Kabul beamed with pride as they held up the Afghan flag after climbing to heights no Afghan woman had ever reached.

Nooristani — a shy athlete who earlier this year would blush and mumble when asked a question — spoke eloquently about how she’d discovered women can learn to do or be anything, whether it’s mountain climbing or becoming a physician or teacher.

The sheer joy they felt during the difficult climb was a first, Otmonkhel said. She realized during the expedition that Afghan women have limitless potential — but too few opportunities.

The pair were part of a 16-day expedition in August with 11 other young Afghan women, trained by a nonprofit called Ascend, based in Norfolk, Va.

Nooristani and Otmonkhel scaled two peaks, including a 16,500-ft. mountain — taller than any in the continental United States. They were among seven Afghan team members who made it to the top of that peak.

For Young Afghan Women, Scaling Mountain Peaks Brings Highs And Lows

Photos: (top and center) Courtesy of Emilie Drinkwater/Ascend, (bottom) Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson/NPR

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