Patagonia has released “Ascend,” a new film about three women forced to flee their homes in Afghanistan, and now the North American climbing community is helping them to build new ones. Feature photo by Miya Tsudome.

Mina Bakhshi, Haniya Tavasoli and Rabia Hussain had a fair amount of autonomy for women in Afghanistan. They were able to pursue their education, go to work and explore hobbies and interests. The trio joined Ascend, a nonprofit organization that taught leadership and rock climbing to women, and that 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.

The women of Ascend were helped to resettle in other countries with volunteer host families from the organization’s network, often other climbers wanting to help. At the same time, Merryn Venugopal and Michelle Pellette, two members of Yosemite Search and Rescue, were 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.

The 19-minute film “Ascend” is directed by Kathryn Francis and  Campbell Brewer.