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Pakistan's first female mountain guides | DW Documentary

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Published on 25 Jun 2019 / In Travel & Events

In the heart of the Karakorum, the highest mountain range in the world, Muslim women are turning Pakistan's traditional gender roles upside down. In the remote mountain village of Shimshal, women are training as mountain guides for the first time.

Shimshal is a small village close to the Chinese border in the far north of Pakistan. The village is 3,100 meters high in the middle of the Karakorum, the world’s highest mountain range, and is known among climbers as the "village of mountaineers.” Since time immemorial, local mountain guides have taken tourists to the snow-capped peaks of the region - a domain traditionally reserved exclusively for men. But one of Pakistan's best-known climbers Qudrat Ali has now turned these gender roles on their heads and is training female mountain guides for the first time at the Mountaineering School.

Bano, Samreen and Zubaida have decided to take the demanding course, hoping to make a good living for their families as fully qualified mountain guides. But they face a steep and rocky learning curve: in addition to mountaineering skills, the young women must learn to stick together in dangerous situations and make the right decisions to ensure their survival. At the end of their training, they have to pass a final examination. They have to ascend the 5,300-meter-high mountain Shifkteen Sar. But their determination to pass the course is greater than any mountain and their message is clear: If they can conquer the Karakorum’s highest peaks, then every Pakistani woman can make her own dream come true.

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