Afghani women mountaineers train in the Alps with the Jonathan Conville Memorial Trust

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Three young women from Afghanistan – Mariam, Shogufa and Hanifa (last names held for security reasons) – have come to the Alps to train in Argentière. The Jonathan Conville Memorial Trust were approached by Ascend Afghanistan and asked if they’d be interested in including the girls in one of their courses which are organised and run by Plas Y Brenin, National Outdoor Sports Centre in Wales. These young women will use their new found skills to help mentor others joining the leadership program in Afghanistan.

In addition, two anonymous donors paid for the girls to have two extra days teaching with Rob Spencer, their Guide. It was felt they had come so far for the course and had worked so hard to get there that it would be a shame not to maximise their time in the mountains and that it will benefit other young women in their country.

You may recognise the organization from the film ‘Ascending Afghanistan’ which was shown at Kendal Mountain Festival and followed 13 young women as they summited 3 previously unclimbed peaks in Afghanistan. T&M also interviewed Emilie Drinkwater, who guided the expedition.

Ascend develops young women into leaders through community service and the sport of mountain climbing. Their short-term goals include achieving tangible climbing feats, of known peaks and first ascents. Their longer-term goal is to develop a cadre of strong female role models and leaders who are equipped and motivated to help their society transition to peace. Team members occupy a unique space in Afghan culture; they are role models because of their climbing achievements as well as their civic contributions.

After their time in Argentière, Shogufa said,“We are tired but we flew our flag on top. We are very happy.”

Mariam said, “The mountains are for everyone here; everyone can enjoy. We want to do this in Afghanistan.”

Marina LeGree, the Executive Director of Ascend accompanied the girls to Argentière and she said, “This was an amazing opportunity and opened the door for us to something that I think really enriches our programme. What the girls learned will benefit the growing body of female Afghan mountaineers.”

It was important to Ascend that the three girls were able to interact with climbers from Europe. They saw the culture around climbing and they felt comfortable despite their limited exposure.

The Jonathan Conville Memorial Trustwas delighted to include them on the course and feel very excited about what they will take back to their own country to benefit many other young women who will step into leadership roles in their own lives and are confident that it will be a ripple effect back home.

The family of Jonathan Conville established the Trust after he died on the Matterhorn in the winter of 1979, aged 27. They aim to encourage and assist young people to train for and pursue their love of the outdoors in the spirit of adventure, which Jonathan embraced during his life. This year the Trust has received sponsorship from Petzl Foundation which has helped fund their courses.

The Trust sends approximately 90 students a year on subsidised courses based in Argentière, France, to give them a practical introduction to glacier travel, crevasse rescue, avalanche assessment and use of equipment in the Alps. They also offer approximately 60 places on courses in Scotland annually which bridges the gap between summer mountaineering and winter mountaineering.

For more info on the Jonathan Conville Memorial Trust visit:

For more information about Ascend Afghanistan visit:


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