Adventure writing without a Beard – Part 1

Outdoor sports and Adventure books written by female adventurers. 



Even the most adventurous of us loves to curl up with a good book after a day hiking, cycling, climbing, kayaking, swimming or just working and escape on an adventure from the comfort of the sofa. Adventure writing is our inspiration; it takes us to new places, allows us to experience new things and lights a spark for our own exciting dreams and plans.

However, according to displays in several book shops recently it may appear that it is only men that can go on epic adventures across icy tundra, cycle vast distances, hike through unexplored rainforests or climb the world’s highest peaks. Of course, we know this not to be true; there are thousands of women around the world making equally epic journeys, pushing limits and despite what some bookshops think, they are writing about it! A post on the wonderful Facebook group ‘Adventure Queens’ about this inequality in the marketing of women’s adventure writing highlighted this to us and kick-started this article and our search for the best of Women’s adventure writing.

This list was formed with help from the lovely Adventure Queens and Love her Wild: Women’s Adventure Community. We had so many to include that this is the first of a several part series and we will kick off with feature sections labelled ‘Mountains’ and ‘Wheels’. Future posts will include titles linked to ‘Water’, ‘Running’ and ‘Travel’ with some ‘Historical’ ones thrown in too. Now read on to get a little bit of adventure inspiration … 


The First Fifty : Munro Bagging without a beard – Muriel Gray

munro-bagging-without-a-beardA classic in its field and noted first here because it inspired /we pinched its title for this blog! It was also one of my first forrays into adventure reading. Muriel’s book documenting her experiences hiking Scotland’s highest mountains in the very male dominated world of mountaineering is a perfect mix of funny and inspiring. Written to accompany the Munro Show TV programme that you may remember from the 90s, her witty observational accounts accompanied by some photos of excellent 80s/  90s hiking wear will get you heading straight for the hills. 

Space below my feet – Gwen Moffat

Deserting her post in the army was just the beginning for trailblazer of UK climbing Gwen Moffat. From living rough in Cornwall and hitch hiking the length of the UK to working as a Forrester and Helmsman of a Schooner to make ends meet, it was the mountains that always called Gwen home. Her mountaineering exploits are detailed here as she went on to become Britain’s leading female climber and the first woman to qualify as a Mountain Guide.

The Girl who Climbed Everest – Bonita Norristhe-girl-who-climbed-everest

The transformation from a worried teenager with an eating disorder to a strong and confident woman who has taken on some of the world’s most challenging expeditions is a story we can all relate and aspire to. How can you turn anxiety and insecurity into the strength needed to climb the world’s highest mountain? Incredible adventurer Bonita Norris discusses the lessons she has learned from her experiences climbing in the Himalayas and on being the youngest person to have both summited Everest and reached at the North Pole. The transformation from a worried teenager with an eating disorder to a strong and confident woman who has taken on some of the world’s most challenging expeditions is a story we can all relate


The Living Mountain – Nan Shepherd

We are back in the Scottish crags with Nan Shepherd’s poetic and philosophical take on the Cairngorms that combines nature, hiking and encompasses the author’s true passion for these mountains. It feels like you are really hiking there alongside her with the wind and rain in your face as she describes everything from the spectacular views to struggling through the fog.  

all-that-glittersAll that glitters – Margot Talbot

Margo Talbot’s brave account of her battle with addiction and depression allows us to understand the true power that sport can have over our lives. This world-class ice climber’s journey started in prison struggling with crime and addiction but her discovery of climbing and the outdoors has taken her on incredible adventures and led her to devote her life to supporting others who are struggling in the same way she did.  

Annapurna: A Woman’s Place – Arlene Blum

A tale of triumph and tragedy; this book tells the story of the first women to reach the summit of Annapurna, the world’s 10th highest peak. The leader of the 1978 expedition details here the skill, determination and strength required for the women to make the climb and the sacrifices that come with that. It was the first book of its type written from a female perspective and made huge steps in changing the views of women’s capabilities within the sporting world.

Clouds from both sides – Julie Tullisclouds-from-both-sides

Described by one reviewer as “an ordinary person doing extraordinary things” Julie Tullis was the first British Women to climb an 8000m peak and an inspirational woman determined to reach for the sky. Sadly, her life was cut short during an attempt to summit K2 but this book documents her remarkable journey from normal post-war life in the UK to the avalanches, snow blindness and thrill of climbing in the Himalayas.

Learning to Fly – Steph Davis

Dealing with the tragic loss of her husband in a climbing accident, climbing superstar Steph Davis had to reassess her relationship with the sport and find a way to heal. In this book she tells of her journey through the pain to rediscover this passion through skydiving and base jumping and with the help of one very special dog. Accompanied by breathtaking photographs, Steph teaches us about the importance of hope and of letting go.

savage-summitSavage Summit – Jennifer Jordan

Known by many as Widower’s Peak or the Savage Mountain, K2 is revered as one of the world’s most treacherous climbs. This book by Jennifer Jordan gives us a glimpse of the dangers faced by a team of 5 women in their summiting of the second highest mountain in the world. It addresses controversial issues surrounding mountaineering and gender while telling of the lives and deaths of the team that took on the Savage Summit.


Travels in a Strange State – Josie Dew

Another great title from Josie Drew whose fab humorous writing style always has us raring to get out on our bikes. Filled with political and racial tensions, spectacular scenery, insane weather and the quirky characters she bumped into along the way, this is a truly personal account of the USA by bike.

Four Cheeks to the wind – Mary Bryantfour-cheeks-to-the-wind

Aged 65 with very little to no long distance cycling experience Mary Bryant packed up her gear and her husband and sets off south on a 2 year cycle ride through 15 countries. Her well-written book details their journey through rarely visited countries, their struggles to get supplies in far flung places and their encounters with the local people on their journey. An uplifting and inspiring read to encourage everyone to up sticks and run away!

The beardless adventurer and her inconvenience – Donna Marie Ashton

“Inspiring proof that you need neither be under 25 nor even bearded to have a terrific adventure.”. This quote from Alastair Humphries gives you a good idea on this one. This story of another couple who up sticks and set off on a cycling adventure gives us the highs and lows and very funny anecdotes of their journey through territory normally inhabited by hardcore bearded cyclists. Fabulously written by Donna Marie Ashton, it will have you packing your panniers and set to go in no time.

this-road-i-rideThis Road I Ride – Juliana Buhrin

From religious cults to breaking world cycling records, Juliana Buhrin writes of her journey from novice cyclist to the fastest woman to circumnavigate the globe by bike. After losing her partner explorer Hendri Coetzee in a crocodile attack in 2010, Juliana turned heartbreak into strength and set off around the world. She talks of sleeping in shipping containers in the desert, cycling through a cyclone and most of all of the kindness and compassion of the people she met.

Desert Snow – Helen Lloyd

This is the story of one girl, one bike and a thousand beers in Africa. Her challenges and fears and interwoven with her joys and triumphs. Travelling from Morocco to South Africa, Helen Lloyd discusses the huge contrasts she encounters across this vast continent and the highs and lows of travelling solo by bike as well as the many friendly faces she shared a beer with along the way.

Red Tape and White Knuckles – Lois Prycered-tape-white-knucles

If something with an engine is more your thing, this hilarious book by Lois Pryce of her solo adventures through Africa on her motorbike is just up your street. Via war-torn regions, churning rivers and the Sahara desert, Lois picks her way through the African continent in an action-packed expedition.


I hope you have enjoyed this collection of some of the best female adventure writers out there, yu can find even more amazing writing in Part 2 … click here