sandra calligaro


Afghanistan is a mountainous country, but scaling the peaks for sport is a new concept here. Mountaineering is considered an odd pastime for men, let alone women whose modesty Afghan society demands be protected at any cost – even death.

But there are enthusiasts. Zahra Karimi Nooristani and her sisters have inspired Marina Kielpinski LeGree to aim to create a crop of Afghan heroines passionate about improving their country and who inspire other women here to break barriers. 

LeGree, a 36-year-old resident of Norfolk, Va., who has spent years shepherding development projects in northeastern Afghanistan, directs a non-profit called Ascend that funds and organizes not only the training, but leadership classes for the Nooristani sisters and a handful of other Afghan girls recruited to be mountain climbers.

The Ascent Of Afghan Women

Photos: Sandra Calligaro for NPR