Persian Mountain Show, Centennial Theatre, Feb. 12, afternoon show 4 p.m. Evening show 7:30 p.m. For more information visit vimff.org.
Windswept deserts. A beating, hostile sun. A region mainly removed from lush nature.
These are some of the stereotypes about Iran and the Middle East that speakers and presenters at the Persian Mountain Show, part of the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival, are hoping to dispel next week.
Speakers Parvaneh Kazemi and Alex Hudson are each giving presentations Feb. 12 at Centennial Theatre hoping to showcase the exquisite beauty they’ve witnessed in their homeland while mountaineering.
For Kazemi especially, mountaineering, trekking and climbing has always been about more than simply ascending some of the world’s tallest peaks – if one can call such impressive feats simple.
“Living as a woman in a traditional society like Iran – traditional and religious – is not easy, especially for girls because from childhood there is maybe lots of pressure on you with family, with society,” Kazemi, who lives in Tehran, Iran and just arrived in Vancouver the day before, tells the North Shore News. “Lots of sports are not allowed for girls. It’s very male dominated.”
Because of this, Kazemi was a late bloomer when it came to undertaking her numerous mountain adventures.
After completing university with a degree in mathematics she finally found the will to participate in sports, “when I was more independent,” she explains.
“My family was also very traditional and they believed that for girls it’s good only to just go to school, study – no sport, nothing,” she says.
She decided to take up badminton. She played competitively for many years but eventually sought a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of competitive sports and the intensity of the city.
“I just started by chance,” she explains with regards to how she took up mountaineering at age 35. She describes her initial hikes and climbs in the surrounding mountain ranges of her homeland as life changing. “It was so peaceful to me. No tension. As you know, badminton is an indoor sport and competitions are very competitive, lots of stress …”
She achieved her first real climbing accomplishment only a few months into her career as a climber, ascending Mount Damavand, the highest peak in Iran at more than 5,600 metres.
“When I reached the summit everything changed for me. It had a big impact on me. When I came back to the city … everything was different and afterwards everything changed for me.”
By 41, many hikes and outdoor adventures later, she undertook climbing Everest, reaching the summit in a week. “It was very nice,” she says, exuding the modesty that peppers all her stories about her numerous excursions.
These days, when she’s not planning her next mountain climbing journey or giving a talk about her experiences, she says her goal is to inspire women and girls back home regarding the joys of outdoor excursions. “I had no support from the government in Iran because we don’t have big support for girls in sports,” she says. “(But) I believe that climbing a mountain is like a country without borders. All of the climbers are friends from around the world and it’s nice that I’m now here.”
Longtime Vancouver resident Alex Hudson, who was born in Iran, will be giving a presentation in an attempt to showcase the beautiful nature of Iran that is seldom talked about in the west.
Hudson travelled from the Kish Island in the Persian Gulf to the peaks of northern Iran during a number of years recently, passing through myriad historical sites, forests, canyons, mountains and, yes, he admits – deserts.
“We have snow in Iran,” he exclaims. “I learned skiing in Iran.”
He mentions that his mere 30-minute presentation is “almost nothing.” He could talk about his adventures back home for ages.
Hudson is an organizer with the BC Hikers Meetup Group and founder of the British Columbia Hiking Club. He’s been an avid hiker for decades.
“Since I was a teenager I’ve loved it,” he says.
A number of mountaineering films will be shown during the Persian Mountain Show, in addition to Kazemi and Hudson’s photo-heavy presentations.
Kazemi’s speech will focus on her path to reaching a number of Himalayan summits and the hurdles she has faced along the way.
One main hurdle is especially dear to her: “I wanted to do something and I tried a lot and I did it. Lots of young girls especially got this message: That they can do it also. It’s not impossible.”