Over the years, I’ve read some fantastic books about people’s adventures in the outdoors.

Personally, I make no distinction between gender when it comes to reading about outdoor adventures and enjoy books written by both male and female authors.

However, it is good sometimes to read a book when you can identify better with the author so for today’s blog post, here are 5 of my favourite books written by female authors….and for the next post, I’ll give the boys a shout out!

1. A Hard Day’s Summer by Alison Hargreaves

A Hard Day's Summer Book CoverThis was one of the first climbing books I ever read.  It was written in 1994 and covers the adventures of climber Alison Hargreaves travelling around the Alps with her husband and two young children.  Her goal was to be the first person to solo climb the six major Alpine north faces in one season.

I always loved hearing about Alison Hargreaves’s accomplishments in climbing and mountaineering, but she sadly died in 1995 while descending from the summit of K2.  Her husband, James Ballard, wrote a follow up to this called “One and Two Halves to K2” telling the story of returning with their 2 children to “Mum’s last mountain”.

I loved the book “A Hard Day’s Summer” so much that it’s stayed on the bookshelf all this time and is one of the few that I’ve read a second time round – it was still just as good.


2. High Infatuation by Steph Davis

High Infatuation Book CoverThis book was written in 2007 and tells the story of Steph Davis “dirtbag climber” (living out of the back of an old car) and how her life was shaped through her love of climbing.

In the book, she takes us to locations such as Patagonia, Kyrgyztan and Yosemite.  I loved reading about the adventures and challenges she tackled in these places, but more than that, there was something of her soul coming through the writing.  She talks about her fears about safety and her ambitions, along with her friendships and relationships.

Actually, looking at the back of the book, I just realised that the quote says “more than just an adventure, this is the story of a woman’s soul”.

Steph Davis is now recognised as an accomplished base jumper and wingsuit flyer.  I love looking through her website from time to time which is packed full of adventure and thoughtful insights – along with some great cake recipes 🙂

3. Holding On by Jo Gambi

Holding On Book CoverJo Gambi entered the Guinness World Records in 2005 as the woman with the fastest time to climb the Seven Summits (the highest mountains on all seven continents).  She did this with her husband Rob, while he was in remission from his second bout of cancer.

When they were warned that his cancer could reoccur, the couple both left their jobs to spend as much time together as they could, setting out on their adventure.

This was a book packed full of adventure but it was also full of emotion surrounding love and survival.  It’s been a while since I read this book (written in 2006)  and finding their website just gave me a nice epilogue.



4. Climbing Free by Lynn Hill

Climbing Free Book CoverIn 1993, Lynn Hill achieved the first free ascent of “The Nose” on El Capitan in Yosemite – and in 1994 she did it in a day.  This record stood until 2005 when Tommy Caldwell free climbed it in under 12 hours.  She is still one of only 4 people to free climb The Nose and has so many other notable climbing achievements throughout her life.

In my view, Lynn Hill is one of the greatest climbers, ever – and at just 5’2″ in height, I’ve always kept the thought in the back of my mind that if Lynn Hill can pack such a punch at that height, my own equivalent short stature (and gender) has absolutely no bearing on my ability to climb a route.

For me, “Climbing Free” was an incredibly motivating and inspirational book.  Written in 2002, I’ve heard it can be difficult to get hold of – but I noticed it is advertised on Lynn Hill’s website, so see if you can track it down.


5. Boundless by Karen Darke

Boundless Book CoverYou may have heard of Karen Darke from watching the London 2012 Paralymics where she won a silver medal in hand biking.  However, she also has quite a history of incredible adventures and is quite simply one of the most inspirational women I’ve read about.

At age 21, she fell and became paralysed when rock climbing on a Scottish sea cliff.  I thought her first book “If you Fall” was an incredible book which talked about her recovery from the accident and her return to adventuring.  She then wrote “Boundless” to talk about crossing the Greenland ice cap on a sit ski, sea kayaking around Corsica and climbing on El Capitan in Yosemite.

If you’re looking for a book by a female adventurer which shows you that adventure is about a mindset rather than physical ability, take a look at either of the ones written by Karen Darke – but be warned, it will take away all your excuses 😉


So there you have 5 of my favourite outdoor books by female authors.

For a bonus book, check out “Terra Incognita” by Sara Wheeler.  Sadly, I no longer have a copy of this book (I think I lent it to a friend and never had it returned) but I remember it being a fascinating story of life during 7 months in the Antarctic.

Ah, I’ve just thought of another one which I absolutely loved too (honestly, there are just too many great female adventurers to stick to 5).  Check out “Just a little Run Around the World” by Rosie Swale-Pope.  Again, I must have lent this book out and not had it returned as I no longer have a copy on my shelf, but I thought it was fantastic – a real page turner.

As I mentioned earlier, for my next post I’ll talk about 5 of my favourite outdoor books by male authors, so click top right to follow this blog with your email address and ensure you don’t miss out.


3 thoughts on “5 Outdoor adventure books written by women

  1. Hi Jacquie,
    Just came across your blog and have really enjoyed spending some of my evening having a peruse.

    Loved this article – I’ve got a precarious pile of books on my bedside table at the moment but this post made me realise that they’re all written by/about men. Time to do something about that! I reckon I like the sound of ‘Boundless’ to begin with. Have you come across any more gems since you wrote this?



    1. Thanks for your lovely comments Emma. I really liked Karen Darke’s first book too “If you fall” which is her story about coming to terms with her disability and has plenty of challenge in there. I’ve also enjoyed a couple of Dervla Murphy books “Where the Indus is Young” and “Muddling Through in Madagascar” (there are so many more titles to go at though). I’m currently reading “Extreme Sleeps” by Phoebe Smith. Other authors recommended to me since writing this article have been Anna Hughes, Chrissie Wellington and Cheryl Strayed but I’ve not checked any out yet.


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