Mountainfilm Reunions

Telluride Mountainfilm kicks off tonight with an upcoming four days of Afghan centric festival programming.  There are so many friends, colleagues, and acquaintances converging in one place that I can hardly believe it.  Rarely in the work I do, are so many that I admire, love, and respect brought together in a place outside of Afghanistan itself.  The interesting thing to me was how deep the threads from previous Mountainfilm’s weave through many who will be part of this festival. Many of the people I have now worked with, and traveled with to Afghanistan were women I met at previous Mountainfilm festivals.

Really what is special  are the memories attached to so many of the people who are part of the festival this year. Filmmaker and friend, Sarah Menzies  and I met in 2011 Mountainfilm, she made a film about me, and two years later we were neck deep working on a film project, Afghan Cycles.  In 2013 we interviewed one of this year’s symposium speakers, Afghan Parliamentarian, Fawzi Koofi in 2013 as part of the Afghan Cycles production.  She is one of many Afghan women working in the political system that I’ve been honored to meet and often work with who raise their voice every day despite the death threats and corruption.


Photographer James Robertson will have a art show as part of the Gallery Walk – he is one of the few people I know besides myself that has skied with the Afghan girls in Bamiyan.  His photography is stunning and he’s a recent convert to fat biking – rocking our Mountain2Mountain Afghan inspired jersey in the snow!  This will be the first time we’ve met in person after years of correspondence.


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The Reading Frenzy on Sunday includes friends like James Edward Mills, who will be there with his first book, The Adventure Gap.  James is actually was the first person to ever interview me way back in 2007 when I was first starting to work in Afghanistan.

Then there is Anna Brones.  We met in 2010 Mountainfilm, and she has become a dear friend and partner in crime.  On the promise of great food blog material and adventure, she traveled to Afghanistan with me to assist me on Streets of Afghanistan street art installations.  She is also a producer on Afghan Cycles, and separate from our work together she is author of Fika and the Culinary Cyclist which means that I have been lucky enough to be on the receiving end of recipe testings!  Of course, we made sure to have Fika in Kabul.

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As for the actual films – obviously the film nearest and dearest to my heart is that of Afghan Cycles.  Sarah Menzies will be presenting a behind the scenes talk about production and storytelling based on her experience filming in Afghanistan with Afghan Cycles, which is in post production as we work to complete for a 2016 premiere.  Our first production trip together was in in the spring of 2013 and Jenny Nichols joined the team soon after and joined Sarah on a second trip last fall. Sarah will also be speaking alongside Afghan photographer, Afghan photographer Farzana Wahidy, and Mo Scarpelli of the film Frame by Frame.  The threads connect further as we worked with Farzana on a dusty day on the Afghan highway north of Kabul, and I introduced Farzana to the crew of Frame by Frame as a strong female subject for a film about Afghan photographers.




I was part of the initial production trip of Frame by Frame which will be screening this year.  I had met both Sarah Menzies and Alexandria Bombach at Mountainfilm in 2011 when I was a speaker and the Streets of Afghanistan exhibition was the backdrop to the symposium.  Sarah and Alexandria subsequently made a film about me and my work, MoveShake and Alexandria had asked if there was ever an opportunity to shoot in Afghanistan that she would like to be considered.  I brought up the idea of a film about the power of owning your own story and the Afghan photographers I knew in Afghanistan.  Anna Brones soon joined the team as did Mo Scarpelli, and I brought the team there in the fall of 2012 to coincide with the premiere of the Streets of Afghanistan exhibitions in Afghanistan which features two of the photographers that are now subjects in the film. My  fixer Najibullah worked with them on their subsequent trips as did my friend, Mountain2Mountain photographer, and Afghan road trip partner, Travis Beard, who was a mentor to the AINA Photo Agency and these photographers while he lived in Kabul for over eight years.

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More exciting is that the four Afghan photographers will be at Mountainfilm as guests. Farzana and her husband Massoud will be speaking at the symposium and in break out sessions. Najibullah Musafer and Wakil Kohsar will be in attendance, and both were part of the Streets of Afghanistan project after I met them and several other AINA Photo photographers in Kabul in 2008.  That is one of my favorite parts of Mountainfilm each year when subjects are part of the festival, not just the storytellers. Their history though has a prior thread through Mountainfilm as their first mentor, photographer Beth Wald, has had two exhibitions at Mountainfilm previously.  She was the woman that first told me about AINA Photo where these photographers honed their skills and banded together as an Afghan photo agency.


Outside of Afghan-centric films there are going to be old friends like Dominic Gill of Encompass Films presenting their short film set in Brazil Above the Alley Beneath the Sky.  Tenuous Afghan connection… Dominic and his partner in crime, Nadia, reading my Streets of Afghanistan book at Denver airport!  You may know Dominic best from his Take a Seat adventures!

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Brendan Leonard and Forrest Woodward will be presenting their film, Frank and the Tower.  I have had the joy of sharing many cups of coffee with Brendan in various parts of Colorado, sharing stories, and I remember hearing about Frank.  Simply put, I cannot wait to see this man in action and get the whole scope of the story on the big screen.  This ironically does have another tenuous Afghan connection as Brendan, aka, Semi_Rad is also a huge supporter of Mountain2Mountain’s work in Afghanistan -100% of proceeds from his tshirt sales on his website benefit my work with women and girls and its one more tug at the heartstrings to see his project at Mountainfilm!  Long story short, this is a man that Gives a Shit.

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There are even connections made at Mountainfilm like with Ted Callahan, who I met at my first Mountainfilm in 2010.  He works in the Wakhan and other remote areas of Afghanistan, and we reconnected randomly on an airplane out of Kabul months later.  We spoke briefly just a month ago, which shows the connections made at Mountainfilm run deep.  NY Times journalist, Matt Rosenberg and I also met randomly on the flight out of Kabul in 2012 and thanks to our mutual role as parents, a rarity in the ex-pat world in Afghanistan, we struck up a conversation that has continued on subsequent visits.

So many more connections I’m probably missing, but I know that people I greatly admire like writer, Dexter Filkins will be at the Reading Frenzy, as will Sebastian Junger and all three of his films will be screened.  Then there’s writers like Cheryl Strayed who speak to the importance of owning your own story, all of it, good bad and the ugly.  Books, film, speakers, and the incredible interactions colliding on the streets and cafes of Telluride, its what Mountainfilm does best.  I myself will be at the Reading Frenzy with my memoir Mountain to Mountain, and the Streets of Afghanistan photography book.

Truth be told, I’d love to see young Afghan and Afghan-American voices of the next generation at the festival because they are the ones that are radically changing the landscape in Afghanistan, outside of the confines of traditional Afghan culture.  Afghan-American fashion designer KingNoorLA, Afghan graffiti artists like Shamsia and Kabir, Afghan rock bands like Kabul Dreams and District Unknown, and Afghan-American singer songwriter, Fereshta who is a spiritual goddess with the soul of a rocker. Afghan-American musician and filmmaker Ariana Delwari who had the film We Came Home and launched an powerful “Be Gone Taliban” social campaign. Afghan activists like Noorjahan Akbar who got young women to march in the streets to protest sexual harassment in Kabul, and set up the first women’s internet cafe.  These young men and women, and so many more like them, are the next generation of change makers and signal a change from the norm… I wish that there had been space to discuss the future though this lens as the time has come to let their voices be heard.



Childhood Daydreams – Speaking in NYC and DC

Next week I have the honor of speaking at two institutions that represent so much of my childhood daydreams and which sparked my lifetime of travel and exploration.  National Geographic Headquarters and the Explorer’s Club.


I remember growing up with backdated issues of the ubiquitous yellow framed magazine on the bookshelf.  Like everyone I knew, I spent hours paging through the photographs of far off places and remote cultures that was in stark contrast to the landscape of my life in North Dakota.  As I got older I recognized National Geographic and the Explorer’s Club as institutions that encouraged adventure, exploration, and cultural exchanges as a way to connect us to our common humanity while searching out answers to the big questions.

It is such an honor to be welcomed into these two institutions to speak about my own experiences and adventures that sparked so much inside of me.  I spent my entire 20’s living overseas, and most of my 30’s working in Afghanistan and continuing to scratch the itches of curiosity and travel.

Both events are open to the public so please spread the word and order your tickets to join me for an evening of talking about Afghanistan, activism, mountain biking, and adventure.  Book signings of my memoir Mountain to Mountain and Streets of Afghanistan at both events:

May 4 in New York City at The Explorer’s Club

May 5th in Washington DC at National Geographic HQ



Books and Holiday Cheer!

What could be a better holiday gift than books?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Funnily enough I have two books out that are perfect for holiday gift giving this year!


“Mountain to Mountain reads like one of Shannon Galpin’s bike rides, fast-paced and unpredictable. It traces her intimate journey as a survivor and her travels across a rugged terrain, in the process bringing alive a vital and poignant message: Equality for Afghan women means more than just voting rights or access to parliament—it means having the same basic freedoms as men.”   —Anand Gopal, author of No Good Men Among the Living


” The beautiful photographs in this book vividly capture the daily lives of ordinary Afghans and serve as a powerful reminder of the power of art to inspire, to bring people together, and to allow for moments of transcendent grace amid struggle and suffering. ” – Khalid Hosseini, author of the Kite Runner and And The Mountains Echoed

My memoir is out in hardcover, just in time for the holidays.  Mountain to Mountain is a look at the journey of becoming an activist, my own experience with gender violence, the choices we make, and my adventures in Afghanistan on two wheels and off.  Its intensely personal, but also a beautiful look at a country we know very little about.  For the bike lovers in your life, its a great look at how the bike can be a vehicle for social justice, not just in Afghanistan, but around the world.  This is not chick lit – its perfect for men and women alike, but definitely PG13 rated.  If you are buying this for someone young in your life, please be warned that Chapter 10 is R rated.  Published by St. Martin’s Press.  You can pick up at your local independent bookstore, or order online at Amazon or Barnes and Nobles.  SPECIAL: If you order before December 10th from my local bookstore, Next Page Books in Frisco, CO,  I can personalize and sign your copy.  Just email  and we’ll take it from there, and she’ll ship it out to you for free.

The second book, Streets of Afghanistan, is also available in hardcover and is a beautiful behind the scenes look at a series of photography installations I set up around Afghanistan as pop up street art. The photography was a collaboration by 5 Afghan photographers back in 2008 and 5 Western photographers.  Photographer and friend, Tony Di Zinno, joined me in 2008 when I first met with the photographers, at that time all members of AINA Photo Agency, and again in 2012 when I set up the installation around Afghanistan.  He documented the initial meetings  and 4 years later the finished installation.   Its a beautiful look at the power of art as activism, and how art belongs everywhere, even in a so-called war zone like Afghanistan.  Definitely G rated, so its appropriate for everyone that wants to be inspired, loves photography, and perhaps desires a different view of Afghanistan.  Published by Hatherleigh Press.  You can order direct from the publisher here! 

Hometown Book Signings

Its been a crazy two months of book signings since my memoir released with St. Martin’s Press in September.  Huge thanks to everyone that came out in New York, Portland, across Colorado, Moab, Chicago!  Your support has been phenomenal!  As the year comes to an end I see the final tour dates finalized with a 3 city stopover in North Dakota.  Going ‘home’ to the state I grew up in to talk about my memoir is fraught with mixed emotions.  Excitement to see family and old friends who have known me the longest, and apprehensive as I have written an incredibly personal book that details the journey I have had since leaving Bismarck.  The journey of an activist, and adventurer, and of a survivor of gender violence to a community that in some ways knows me best and yet doesn’t know me at all is going to be an experience all in itself!  Regardless, I’m looking forward to it and hope that my home state will come out into the snowy nights to support my book tour and my work fighting for women’s rights and against gender violence.  See you there!

Grand Forks Public Library, December 15

Fargo Public Library, December 16

Bismarck Public Library, December 17


Mountain to Mountain – A Memoir Launches

Holy shit I wrote a book!

That’s the phrase running through my head as I saw my book listed on Amazon, IndieBound, and Barnes and Noble websites yesterday.  Available for pre-order.  Releases September 16.


The book hits bookstores nationwide with St. Martin’s Press in one month, but my publisher sent me the link yesterday that the pre sales had started and a sneak peek of Chapter One was available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  After two years of writing, editing, and working through the final publishing process with my editor at St. Martin’s Press, there is a book and soon it will be in hand of family and friends, colleagues and strangers.  Its a strange feeling.

Made more so by the fact that this is a deeply personal memoir.  This is not a story about my work, or Afghanistan’s history, its a story about my call to activism, my journey as a survivor of gender violence, and the other side of Afghanistan and it’s people beyond the war most Americans see on the news.   It’s road trips and prisons, motorcycles and mountain bikes, kindness and terror, adventure and activism.

Amazed to have the vocal support and blurb for the book cover by  New York Times bestselling author and perhaps the most famous Afghan in America, Khalid Hosseini, author of the Kite Runner and The Mountains Echoed.

“Shannon Galpin’s lovely cycling saga is an inspiring and illuminating window into the lives of modern day Afghan women and their continuing struggle to ride their own path to freedom, recognition, and equality.”

Washington Post Journalist, Anand Gopal who authored No Good Men Among the Living generously took time to read the book and wrote:

“Mountain to Mountain reads like one of Shannon Galpin’s bike rides, fast-paced and unpredictable. It traces her intimate journey as a survivor and her travels across a rugged terrain, in the process bringing alive a vital and poignant message: Equality for Afghan women means more than just voting rights or access to parliament—it means having the same basic freedoms as men.”

Then last night, I was sent a shot of Bicycling Magazine’s latest issue, which starts hitting mailboxes and newsstands this week , and this review is inside!  Its real.  Its out there.  Holy shit.



Even bigger, the support from the legendary multiple world champion cyclist, Marianne Vos – who sent me her blurb for the book two days before she won La Course at Le Tour in Paris.  Making history on the final day of the Le Tour de France.

“Read this touching story from Shannon Galpin, who utilizes her unique position as a western woman to immerse herself in Afghan culture. She had the courage to leave everything behind and use the bike to as a tool to lead a physical and political movement – a way towards freedom for the women of Afghanistan.”

4 time World Ironman Champion, and one of the women behind the push to get La Course at Le Tour this year, Chrissie Wellington wrote:

Mountain to Mountain is nothing short of phenomenal. This captivating, inspiring, and heart-warming memoir shows us all that, with unbounded and unwavering passion, determination and courage, change can happen and mountains can be moved, one pedal stroke at a time. Shannon Galpin, and the women of Afghanistan, I salute you and your illimitable strength.

Holy shit indeed.  Yeah, I’m getting all the swears out now, because my editor edited most of my swears out of the memoir!   Having the support of these amazing men and women makes it a little less daunting to have my very personal life become very public.

Book tour starts in New York City on September 16th and here’s the tour list – I hope to see many familiar faces there!!

New York – TBA September 16-20

Frisco, CO – Next Page Bookstore – September 27

Portland, OR – Powell’s – October 3

Denver, CO – Tattered Cover – October 6

Boulder, CO – Boulder Bookstore – October 8

Chicago, IL – TBA – October 15

Los Angeles – TBA – October 18

Austin, TX – Austin Book Festival – October 25

Edwards, CO – Bookworm – October 29

Moab, UT – Back of Beyond – November 1

Durango, CO – Maria’s Bookstore – November 13


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