When Elise Wortley was 16, she read about the audacious life of Belgian–French explorer Alexandra David-Néel, who hiked solo across Asia, including covertly entering Lhasa, Tibet, for 14 years—an unheard-of activity for women in the early 1900s.
Inspired by David-Néel’s intrepid determination and the epic journeys of other forgotten female explorers and adventurers, Wortley began the Woman with Altitude project, her ongoing mission to retrace the travels of around 150 women, including Annie Londonderry, the first woman to bicycle around the world, and 16th-century pirate Grace O’Malley.
In this Wilderness Scotland video, Lise Wortley talks about the endeavor, which includes wearing period clothing and only using era-appropriate equipment that was available to her historic mentors. Wortley writes:
“This means no modern day trekking equipment or technology of any sort. It will be interesting to see how someone like myself, who has grown up in a consumer society and always has comforts to fall back on copes with nothing but the basics.”
During her Scotland trek, Wortley traveled to Cairngorms National Park to trace the route of Scottish writer and explorer Nan Shepherd, who dedicated her life to exploring and documenting these mountain ecosystems throughout the seasons. From the video:
“My main hope for this project is really, when I look back at my 16-year-old self from reading that book, I don’t want anyone else to not have these women in their lives. It’s really helped me, just this whole process, and I guess these women and their stories… and I kind of think if they can do that, then I can do this.”
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• The 1913 women’s suffrage march on Washington D.C.