top of page

Smithsonian: Adventurer Elise Wortley recreates the journeys of famous female explorers

Claire Turrell

For historical accuracy, the 33-year-old Brit wears only the cotton dresses, yak wool coats and hobnail boots that her predecessors would have had

Elise Wortley pulled her yak wool coat tight around her as the mountain temperature dropped to minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The fire at her feet flickered underneath her Himalayan rubber-soled shoes. Her canvas tent sat empty, apart from her homemade wooden backpack, as she couldn’t bear to peel herself away from the only source of heat for miles. This is where the 27-year-old slept, until the sun rose and she and her Lepcha mountain guide continued their trek up to the base camp of Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world, in November 2017.

It was another woman that brought Wortley to this point, the French explorer Alexandra David-Néel, who traveled through the Himalayas in the early 1900s. Wortley’s own journey through the Himalayas would become part of a six-year Woman with Altitude project that has seen her trace the routes of early female adventurers from the wilds of Scotland to the valleys of Iran.

bottom of page