At this time there is not a single store in Iraq that sells climbing gear. In fact, if you only speak the native language, there is currently no information whatsoever on how to even get started because the sport has only started to arrive in the country. But that has not stopped a team of Iraqi mountaineers with whom we are building the first ever climbing school in the country. This incredibly inspiring team had to get very creative in teaching themselves how to climb and defining the sport. And, without access to any gear, they have literally had to reinvent tools and equipment by hand to conquer their local Kurdish Mountains.
When I asked my now good friend Kamaran how he and his friends learned to climb, his response was by watching. He explained that when his team first learned about mountaineering, there was nothing in their native language at all. Undeterred, they examined photos and watched how climbers performed certain actions, emulating them and re-discovering the sport with partial information. However, as their skills improved, so did their appetite for bigger challenges. This is where they ran into their next obstacle; obtaining gear in a country where even hiking shoes were hard to find.
By this time, the team had a good idea of what gear they needed and the next step was figuring out where to get it. Kamaran explained that they had a few contacts abroad who managed to get them used and old equipment. However, for items such as proper boots, jackets, harnesses, etc. the price made them unattainable, and in the rare instances gear would come; if you got something that didn’t fit or had some other defect, it was a total loss. Even still, the team’s remarkable passion did not let them give up and they would venture into the mountains and become hardened not only physically, but in their resolve and spirit. In the process, they made up their minds;
if we can’t get it, then we’ll make it.
The passion visible in their equipment cannot be overstated. In mountaineering, where perseverance is the test that stands between us and our greatest accomplishments, this Iraqi team has without a doubt demonstrated that they will not let anything stop them. When I saw these images, my mouth agape – I immediately shared them with my team on the US side. When we started this project, we did not anticipate meeting such inspiring individuals, and it truly feels like an honor to help them now in establishing the first climbing school in their country. We could not imagine better stewards of this sport for an entire culture.
YOU CAN HELP
Three ways you can help:
1. SHARE this project
Social Media algorithms bury humanitarian projects, but with your help we can reach the entire global climbing community!
2. Donate brand new gear
We have had so many offers of used gear, but we want to set this school up with the best foot forward. If you have a piece of gear on the list below that hasn’t left its packaging, or if you find a great deal somewhere, please do not hesitate to let us know!
3. Make a monetary donation
The most useful donation is funds that cover our costs, that we can use to fill in the gaps on the list, and that can help guarantee the success of our project.
Please click here or the link at the bottom to make your contribution!