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Ira­nian Climber and Gla­ciol­o­gist Based in Canada

Gripped - - CONTENTS -


Samira Samimi

Ira­nian climber Samira Samimi is a PhD stu­dent cur­rently re­search­ing melt­wa­ter re­ten­tion on the per­co­la­tion zone of the Green­land Ice Sheet. When she’s not away from home and study­ing in the field, she spends her time climb­ing around Cal­gary. Be­fore mov­ing to Canada, Samimi trav­elled around Asia climb­ing and vis­it­ing re­mote places. We touched base with her af­ter a climb­ing day at Back of the Lake in Lake Louise.

How long have you been climb­ing?

I started climb­ing and cav­ing when I was I am 31 now.

Can you talk about go­ing on ex­pe­di­tions while based in Iran? What hap­pened with the Trango Tower trip? Can you talk about your glacier re­search? Why weren’t you al­lowed to head to Green­land back in 2017?

16. In Iran, there are many chal­lenges as­so­ci­ated with be­ing a wo­man, es­pe­cially around how we are sup­posed to dress and who we are climb­ing with. If I wanted to go climb­ing with a guy friend of mine, there would al­ways be some­one ask­ing what our re­la­tion­ship was and why we were to­gether if we were not mar­ried. Imag­ine a very con­ser­va­tive so­ci­ety that seeks to im­pose its val­ues and rules on its en­tire pop­u­la­tion. Also, there was no res­cue ser­vice of any sort, so we were al­ways on our own, know­ing no one would come for us in the event of an emer­gency. Climb­ing as a wo­man in Iran is com­pli­cated as it is an Islamic coun­try. We don’t share sports with men and get­ting spon­sors or get­ting govern­ment sup­port is very se­lec­tive and is some­times even po­lit­i­cal. I left Iran af­ter univer­sity to do the trek to K2 base camp. Af­ter that, I went to Nepal and started to work with Chris Szymiec as an ex­pe­di­tion leader and never went back home. The Ira­nian team (all male) climbed the Trango Tower a year later. There was no fe­male ex­pe­di­tion. My PhD re­search is melt­wa­ter re­ten­tion on the per­co­la­tion zone of the Green­land Ice Sheet. The Green­land Ice Sheet has the po­ten­tial to store melt­wa­ter in liq­uid form or re­freeze it, and this can act as a buffer to the pro­jec­tion of sea-level rise. I am us­ing geo­phys­i­cal meth­ods to look at the wa­ter con­tent in the sub­freez­ing lay­ers in snow and firn, so we can de­velop bet­ter mod­els to pro­ject sea-level rise. I am al­lowed to go to Green­land. My Green­land Pro­ject was a nasa-funded pro­ject through the Univer­sity of Colorado and was stopped in 2018, but there might be a pos­si­bil­ity of go­ing back to Green­land in 2019. It was a dif­fer­ent story in 2017, be­cause I am still hold­ing an Ira­nian pass­port. The ac­tions taken by the U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion af­ter the elec­tion to ban Mus­lims from en­ter­ing the U.S. af­fected my trip. Iran is on the list of Mus­lim na­tions whose cit­i­zens are banned from go­ing to the U.S.

The plan for go­ing to Green­land was to take a U.S. Na­tional Guard flight on a C-130 from Al­bany, N.Y. to Green­land. Be­cause I was not able to go to the U.S., I flew com­mer­cially to Green­land and was able to join my team to fly from there to my field sta­tion at Dye 2 on the south­west ice sheet.

What has it been like be­ing an Ira­nian climber in Canada?

Canada is a multi-cul­tural coun­try and it is more ac­cept­able and nor­mal to be a fe­male climber here than Iran.

How much time do you spend on re­search ver­sus climb­ing?

I try my best to achieve bal­ance, but I spend more time trav­el­ling for con­fer­ences and ex­pe­di­tions for my re­search than climb­ing, but I al­ways take my climb­ing shoes wher­ever I go. Lately, all of my climb­ing has been lo­cal, but I do have fu­ture plans to climb in Ar­gentina and maybe even in Nepal and Pak­istan.

What are some of your climb­ing goals?

I al­ways wanted to climb Trango Tower. Also, the more I learn about An­tar­tica and Patag­o­nia, the more I want to see what those ar­eas have to of­fer.

What is your ad­vice to young women who are start­ing to climb?

Climb for your­self and have fun. Choose your own style and don’t worry about what any­one else is do­ing.

What is your dream route?

I don’t have a dream route. I be­lieve ev­ery moun­tain peak is achiev­able if you pre­pare your­self men­tally and phys­i­cally. But I would like to con­tinue my re­search and work in Antarc­tica and climb there.—Gripped

Op­po­site: Samira Samimi on Mardi Gras 5.11b at Back of the LakeAbove: Samimi climb­ing on Kid Goat with Yam­nuska be­hind

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