Mina Bakhshi, Haniya Tavasoli and Rabia Hussain had a fair amount of autonomy for women in Afghanistan, able to pursue their education, go to work and explore hobbies and interests. Joining Ascend, a nonprofit organization teaching leadership and rock climbing to women, gave them the chance to test their personal and cultural limits and explore the mountains of their home country. But when the Taliban took over in August 2021, Ascend became their one chance to escape a regime that would restrict their freedoms and future.
While the women of Ascend were being resettled in other countries with volunteer host families from Ascend’s network—often other climbers wanting to help—Merryn Venugopal and Michelle Pellette, two members of Yosemite Search and Rescue, were also looking to find ways to support fellow climbers in need. They invited the women to spend a week in Yosemite, where they could safely reunite and find solace in the climbing community. Now, as they build new lives in a country separated from their families, the women find that connecting with other climbers in Yosemite is also a connection to home.