Waymaking, an anthology of women’s adventure writing
‘No failure, no success. Pure absorption’. Waymaking, a brand new anthology of adventure
writing by women from by Sheffield-based publishers Vertebrate, opens with these lines by climber Hazel Findlay. And this sets the tone for what follows: an extraordinarily beautiful and moving collection of women’s experiences in the outdoors.
Sheffield is famously the only UK city with a national park within its boundary, and the
Vertebrate team are a mix of climbers, walkers, mountain bikers, runners and nature lovers.
This book feels like a labour of love borne from the spirit, the wide open spaces and the
clean air of the peaks.
And although we spend plenty of time in the familiar countryside on our doorstep, we also
travel further afield as far as Greenland, Antarctica and New Mexico. With these women as
our guides, and seeing these landscapes through their eyes, the experience of reading this
book is a generous, inclusive trip around the world – with a troupe of brave and articulate friends for company. While the descriptions of the landscapes are often gorgeous, what is even more moving about Waymaking is the writing about internal journeys. I generally have an almost pathological aversion to self-discovery and ‘inspirational’ writing of any kind. But somehow, when given the frame of a relationship with the outdoors, this becomes something beautiful: finding yourself and losing yourself are vividly depicted here, and far from finding it nauseating, I actually shed more than a few tears of recognition and admiration.
The impact that spending time outside has on our relationships with our nearest and dearest
is also powerfully explored. One of the most extraordinary pieces in the whole anthology is
Libby Peter’s story of taking her thirteen-year-old daughter out of school for the day to go ice
and snow climbing. In just three pages, Peter manages to write one of the most moving
affirmations of seizing the day I have ever read. Waymaking does include tales of epic feats of endurance and achievement, but it is in the quiet, contemplative moments of just being in the outdoors, and with the people we love in the outdoors, where we catch a glimpse of something very special. This book will have you reaching for your waterproof trousers and walking boots, and carpeing the diem with bells on. The team at Vertebrate have said they hope Waymaking will be a catalyst for the publication of more women’s voices in the outdoor adventure genre. Having read this, I wholeheartedly join them in this hope.