You may not have heard their names. You may not have heard of their adventures. But one thing’s for sure, you can’t fail to be impressed by their achievements.
Climbed the tallest mountains in the world…check. Run all the way around the planet…check. Rowed across the three great oceans…check. Explored space, the final frontier…check. Overcome untold pain, unimaginable challenges and terrifying situations…check.
Here we celebrate 10 great, modern day female adventurers. These 10 women are a real inspiration to us. We really hope they are for you too. Check out each woman’s official website to learn more about her intrepid feats.
Let us know if you’ve been inspired to take up your own adventure. Tweet us, or comment below.
Kira Salak (USA) – Writer and journalist
The New York Times dubbed Salak the “real life Lara Croft”. Why? Well, her extensive travel in Papua New Guinea, solo kayak down the length of the Niger river, sneaking into the DR Congo with Ukrainian gun-runners, three adventure-based books (two non-fiction) and position as contributing editor at National Geographic magazine all had something to do with it.
Rosie Swale Pope (Britain) – Ultra-long-distance runner
After the death of the love of her life, Swale Pope knew she just had to do something. Departing from her home in Wales in 2003, she started out on an epic solo run that wasn’t to end until she’d circumnavigated the entire northern hemisphere … all on foot.
In the record books for having the longest unsupported run in history, she clocked up more than 20,000 miles over five years. To this day, no one has matched her feat – man or woman.
Desolate loneliness wasn’t the only worrisome challenge she had to contend with on the road: she overcame a bitter Siberian winter, a wild wolf poking its head into her tent, and even an axe-wielding man.
Oh, and did we mention, she towed a sled carrying her supplies and living quarters the whole way round too. Remarkably, when it comes to her overall running achievements, her around the world trip is merely the tip of the iceberg.
Ellen MacArthur (Britain) – Sailor
In 2005 MacArthur broke the record for the fastest single-handed circumnavigation of the globe on a multihull yacht, sailing over 27,000 nautical miles in 71 days 14 hours 10 minutes and 33 seconds.
Famously, she never got more than 20 minutes of sleep at a time throughout the entire voyage.
Eileen Collins (USA) – Astronaut
Though not the first woman in space (Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Vladimirovna snagged that spot in the history books in 1963), Collins is arguably the greatest female astronaut in history.
Not only the first female Space Shuttle pilot in 1995, but she also had the honour of becoming the orbiter’s first female commander four years later – those hugely respected and coveted assignments place her alongside NASA’s most senior and elite space-goers.
Helen Skelton (Britain) – TV adventurer
Soon after being hired for Blue Peter, Skelton took up the mantle of adventurer-in-chief. Over the course of her five years on the show she has taken on, and completed, a remarkable collection of extreme challenges.
In 2009 she became the second woman to complete the gruelling 78-mile Namibia Ultra Marathon. A year later she kayaked the entire 2,010-mile length of the Amazon River, breaking two Guinness World Records along the way; the longest solo journey by kayak, and the longest kayak by a woman in 24 hours.
Not content with taming seriously warm climes, she travelling 500 miles across Antarctica to the South Pole by ski, kite and bike, enduring temperatures of -48 degrees along the way.
Roz Savage (Britain) – Ocean rower
Savage is the current holder of two ocean rowing world records; first woman to row across the Pacific solo (East to West), and first woman to row all three of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans solo (East to West).
Cumulatively she’s rowed over 15,000 miles (to put that in context, the circumference of the Earth is just under 25,000 miles), taken around five million oarstrokes, and spent over 500 days at sea in a 23-foot rowboat. In that time, she’s braved 20-foot waves, been capsized three times in 24 hours, and faced death by dehydration.
Anne Mustoe (Britain) Cyclist
In 1987, Anne Mustoe was over 50 years old, had no interest in bicycles, and was anything but fit. Still, having given up her position as a school headmistress, she headed out on a bike ride. And we don’t just mean a quiet, little jaunt around town.
Mustoe embarked on a mammoth, ambling journey. Her route took her first through Europe, on to remote corners of Pakistan and India, then Malaysia, and finally America, before she returned to her departure point, St Paul’s Cathedral in London. In all she had cycled 11,552 miles in 14 countries over 439 days.
Cecilie Skog (Norway) – Mountaineer and explorer
Formerly a nurse, now a professional adventurer, Skog has the distinction of being the first woman to have stood at both poles and atop the tallest peaks of every continent. It is, however, her summit of K2, the notoriously treacherous second-highest peak in the world, that shines brightest on her remarkable CV.
For every four who have reached the top of K2, one has died trying – one of whom was her husband on the same expedition where she summitted. In 2010, she and a friend completed an unprecedented unassisted and unsupported crossing of Antarctica on cross-country skis – it took 70 days to complete the 1,120-mile journey.
Jessica Watson (Australia) – Sailor
Three days before her 17th birthday in 2010, Watson became the youngest person to sail non-stop and unassisted around the world. Her feat only narrowly failed to meet the World Ailing Speed Record Council’s criteria for a circumnavigation of the globe.
Edurne Pasaban (Spain) – Mountaineer
In 2010, Pasaban became the first woman (21st person) to climb all 14 of the world’s 8,000-plus metre peaks. A year later she set out to conquer Everest again, this time without supplemental oxygen (it was the only one of the 14 she hadn’t yet summitted without the assistance of bottled oxygen).
However, the expedition will be remembered not for a successful ascent, but for her good judgement in leadership. When two of her team fell ill with altitude sickness on the penultimate leg of the ascent, Pasaban took the agonising decision to abort the expedition.
The ensuing return to base camp proved critical to saving the lives of the two unwell Sherpas.
Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to…
(Featured image: Rosie Swale Pope)Brett Ackroyd