Coloradan Will Guide Afghanistan Women On Historic Climb

You may have heard this morning on NPR that 13 Afghan women are pulling together an expedition to climb 24,580-foot Mount Noshaq. It’s their country’s highest peak, and only two Afghans have ever reached its summit.

Both of them were men.

Two Americans are involved in getting the women to the summit, and one of them is from Colorado: Danika Gilbert, 44, works for San Juan Mountain Guides of Ouray and Durango, and has been tapped to lead the expedition to the summit. According to her bio, she started guiding in 1994 and has led trips all over the world, including Canada, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, Nepal, Pakistan, Greenland and Europe.

The other American is Marina LeGree, 36. She founded Ascend, an NGO that describes its mission as building unity through athletic challenges. The Afghanistan expedition is its first project.

Climbing the mountain will be hard, but navigating the country's bureaucracy and customs my prove to be an equal challenge:

It takes a full day filling out forms in the Afghan town of Ishkashim for the group to get the required permits to go to base camp. Those documents are promptly rejected by the elders of the nearby village Qazideh, who demand they start the paperwork again with Wakhan's district government, which is a day's drive away on dirt roads.

Getting the elders' blessing is important: Their village sits at the head of the 20-mile trail leading to the mountain. They also control the porters needed for the women's expedition. Just how obstructionist they can be became clear months ago when they stopped LeGree's organization from recruiting local girls for the mountain-climbing team.