She looks like a mixture of an Avatar and an Alpinist rock star. Soon you will read that she has the heart of 24-carat gold too. But first thing first. Who is our Whiteout ambassador?
Name: Vibeke Andrea Sefland
Current Address: Juba in South Sudan.
"When I am in Norway I live in a little expedition tent in the woods not too far from the airport."
The freedom. The freedom of reaching new heights, new goals. The freedom of pushing borders and own limits. The freedom of being in charge of bigger projects and achieving magic goals. The freedom of seeing white mountains as far as my eye can see, feeling the wind and the cold biting me and telling me I am alive!
Vibeke Andrea Sefland
We have read a lot about you lately, due to the Afghanistan expedition together with the nonprofit organization Ascend. They work in Afghanistan to empower women through athletic leadership.
I got a call from Ascend with an amazing question; do you want to guide a group of Afghan females to the highest mountain in Afghanistan? Oh yes! You bet I will!!
Why did you want to join this project?
What an amazing opportunity! Who can say no when you are asked to guide a team to make world history? I was thrilled! I knew we could do it if none got ill and if they had the endurance and technic.
For me, it was amazing to be able to help these great girls. They face danger every day and most of them are harassed every day. They risk a lot just by being a part of Ascend, by meeting at the Ascend office, by going for a hike in the mountains surrounding Kabul. They also put a risk on the family by being a part of Ascend. Many of them have family members who don’t agree with their participation in the Ascend program and that causes unrest on the whole family.
For me to be able to get to know the girls and their families and be together with them for such a long time was an amazing experience. To climb a mountain and be part of something bigger is so valuable. We were climbing for the empowerment of all Afghan women. To lead the way for them, to show the world that this is possible!
And it was an unbelievable feeling to bring the first Afghan women to the top of the highest peak in Afghanistan!
Tell us about the group of brave hearts.
We were quite a number going to Base Camp. The photo/video crew consisted of Theresa, Erin, Sandro, and Rob. Then we had a famous journalist from the USA, Soraya Nelson with us. She was coming with us to Base Camp to write on her book about the Ascend girls. In addition to this, two from Ascend staff including the founder Marina came with us to Base Camp.
And then the climbing team:
Emily and myself as guides and then the four girls who had been training for 3 years towards this achievement; Hanifa, Freshta, Shegufa, and Niki.
Hanifa: She grew up in an illiterate family together with 2 brothers and 6 sisters. She was forced married at the age of 15 to an old uncle in Pakistan. After years of violence and abuse, she managed to escape back to her parents who luckily welcomed her back.
Freshta: She is program coordinator at Ascend, she comes from an illiterate family. She has experienced extreme poverty and understands the challenges the girls go through from bitter personal experience.
Shegufa: She is very outspoken and dares to face all challenges. She is really determined and the perfect negotiator when it comes to deal with men on our way from to Kabul to Base Camp. And the wonderful thing to experience was to see how the men paid respect to her due to her determination.
Niki: A bad-ass-woman! Niki has learned a lot from her shepherd family and doesn’t give up easily.
The summit of a mountain is always a bonus. Safety first, right?
When we started our climb we were two guides, and we had set the rule that we could not be responsible for more than 2 girls each. We also had the film crew we needed to guide. It turned out that the Afghan girls were less experienced and trained then we could imagine. Shegufa and Niki were so slow, had little endurance and were not comfortable enough on crampons in the steep hills. I took the hard decision and turned them around. They were mad at me, they cried, they were angry at me…but it was the only right decision. It would have been unsafe to bring them higher. They managed to climb up to 5000m which was a personal record for both of them…and they hold the record of being the second highest Afghan women.
We went back to Base Camp and had a meeting with them all and explained the situation. The mountain was too dangerous to try to get them all up. It would take too much time, long time then we got, and not calculated with bad weather coming in. They got the choice; do you want all 3 to reach camp 2 or do you want 1 to attempt for the summit? it was a tough night with discussions and tears, but they decided to support Hanifa. From there on we focused everything on her.
You wrote history!
It´s amazing to be part of writing history, helping development in the right direction. We made something huge in a society where women are suppressed and expected to follow the men´s rules. We broke the rules and showed that a girl could do something most men never will manage.
It is an amazing feeling to actually be part of the start of a new beginning.
Whiteout has the slogan: #Getout.
Nature is the arena where you get creative, energy and peace. What are your thoughts?
Yes absolutely! That is why I have sold my car and rented out my apartment for the last 6 years now. Freedom!! I live in a tent and I travel. Nothing holds me back and force me to stay in one place. I am free! And freedom leads to creativity and being open to new ideas, new ways of living, new ways of tackling the daily life.
Why is it important to contribute so that others can #getout too?
I have found out what freedom can do for people and for the world and new development. I have seen with my own eyes how this changes people from being suppressed and depressed to finding their true self and raising up from their dark life by changing focus and getting a life full of quality by putting their focus to others who are less fortunate. I want to show people that life is so rich, it is so much to experience and we can all make a difference.
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, you have never tried to fall asleep with a mosquito in your room”
What effect will the documentary about the girls have?
I am 100% sure this world record has already inspired many women and girls in Afghanistan and will continue to inspire and help them to get out, to dare to face all the life treating obstacles and go out and feel the freedom in nature! I also hope this documentary will inspire women and men all over the world to dig a bit deeper, walk that extra mile and support those who face greater challenges to gain that freedom we tend to take for granted.
7 Summits completed
2011 Mt Blanc (4810m), France
2011 Kilimanjaro (5895m), Tanzania
2011 Aconcagua (6962m), Argentina
2012 Manaslu (8163m), Nepal
2013 Elbrus (5642), Russland
2014 Denali (6168m), Alaska USA
2014 Kilimanjaro (5895m), Tanzania
2014 Makalu (8463m), Nepal
2014 Ama Dablam (6856m), Nepal
2015 Aconcagua (6962m), Argentina
2015 Carstensz Pyramid (4884m), Indonesia
2015 Everest (8848m) - Lhotse (8516m), Nepal
2015 Khan Tengri (7010m), Kyrgyzstan
2016 Diran (7266m), Pakistan
2017 Lhotse (8516m), Nepal
2017 Everest (8848m), Nepal
2018 Mt Vinson (4892m), Antarctica
2018 Noshaq (7492m), Afghanistan