above, practically the first sight that greets a visitor to Iran is the Ayatollah Khomeini. He is everywhere, watching all the time.
A paragraph from Rope Dipomacy
In such an authoritarian society, to control one’s own destiny is a rare and precious thing. For independent-minded human beings, it’s the essence of life itself, and it’s a feeling that consequential sports like climbing deliver in significant measure, for by and large the vertical world exists beyond government. In it, individuals conform to rules of their own making—and bear the oft-times harsh consequences of their mistakes.
“It is very difficult to live here,” said Shaima Shadman, one of our ACI host climbers, explaining how most Iranians cope. “Everybody has two lives, one private, one public. The government knows about it. They have them, too.”
A lovely 36-year old woman whose warm, brown eyes and careful, withdrawing smile demonstrate the tensions of her existence, Shadman was raised in Mashaad, a conservative city in northeastern Iran. She trained as a computer engineer and worked five-plus years in Tehran. But she found being in an office stifling and abandoned her career for a world that gifts her the freedom to act in accord with her true person, where “everything is nature: sun, rain, cloud, snow.”
Shadman now works as a climbing guide, radiating quiet strength. Although most of her days are spent on Damavand, Iran’s highest peak, which she climbs about 35 times a year, she recently led a group of her countrymen to Annapurna base camp, in Nepal. Fixed to her aluminum water bottle was a sticker of Rosie the Riveter. A reticent smile and furtive nod communicated that Shadman knows exactly who Rosie was and what she did. Shadman told me that she dreams of exploring the world’s great ranges. “Mountains is free land,” she said. “Everybody in the mountains is member of this same country.”