Elise Wortley, woman with altitude, journalist, writer, explorer, Alexandra David-Neel


To me, Alexandra David-Néel’s book My Journey to Lhasa was one of those books I just couldn’t get over. You know when you read a book or see a film and you keep thinking about it for weeks afterwards, it was like that. Except that with this book, I never stopped thinking about it. The book recounts the final six months of Alexandra's epic 14 year journey through Asia, her quest to reach the forbidden city of Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. Against all odds, dressed as a poor pilgrim, she reached Lhasa in 1924.

12 years after reading this book for the first time, I was still wondering just how she managed to achieve what she did. 14 years of dealing with the cold, the wet, illness and of course the constant pressure and difficulty that came with being a female traveller in the early 1900s.

So, I decided to act on that idea that had always been in the back of my mind - to recreate Alexandra’s journey in some way, and to experience life travelling as a woman as closely as she would have done. I realised that the only way to truly do this, and to truly do her journey justice would be to do exactly as she did, taking with me only what she had. This meant NO modern day mountain equipment. So with my yak wool coat, a wooden backpack I made out of an old chair and an all-female team in tow, I set off in search of a special cave, the worlds third highest mountain and answers to questions I'd had for the last 13 years. 

After returning from this life-changing first expedition, I realised that the stories and achievements of histories female explorers like Alexandra should be celebrated and never forgotten. I've made it my mission to bring these stories back to life, to inspire this generation and the next the same way they have inspired me. In July 2019 I set off on my second adventure to the Cairngorm Mountains in Scotland, to follow in the footsteps of Nan Shepherd, one of the UK's best known nature writers and mountain wanderers.

So where have I got to?

JOURNEY 1: ALEXANDRA DAVID-NEEL - The Himalaya, Sikkim, India

JOURNEY 2: NAN SHEPHERD - The Cairngorm Mountains, Scotland

JOURNEY 3: In planning phase, to be revealed soon