No map could show them

Peter Williamson, 16 September, 2016
We catch up with an old friend, poet and mountaineer, Helen Mort, who tells us about the inspiration behind her latest collection of poems...

Back in 2013, we joined Switzerland Tourism and Thomas Cook on a journey through the Swiss Alps to celebrate the 150th anniversary of that pioneering company’s first guided excursion into the Alps.

In that original party, led by Thomas Cook himself, was a lady adventurer from Yorkshire, Miss Jemima Morrell of Selby, one of a growing number of Victorian ladies who were daring to go where few ladies had gone before. (Pictured above, on the far right, at home in Selby in her climbing gear – crinolines!)

Among the 21st-century party was poet Helen Mort who had won a competition to take the part of Miss Morrell, an experience which was to provide inspiration for this highly-acclaimed poet’s next project, as she explains:

“Ever since I was a child, I've loved hillwalking and fell running in the Peak District. As a teenager, I started walking Munros with my dad and when I was 17, I learned to rock climb on Stanage Edge. At the same time, I was devouring classic mountaineering books – Joe Simpson's Touching the Void and Heinrich Harrer's The White Spider, amongst them. It wasn't until I was older that I realised all my literary climbing heroes were men.

And so, a few years ago, I started to seek out stories by inspirational women instead, from Maria Paradis and Fanny Bullock Workman to Gertrude Bell and Alison Hargreaves, the Derbyshire-born climber who tragically died on K2.
In 2013, I was lucky enough to travel to Switzerland with Inntravel and Switzerland Tourism on a unique journey, retracing the footsteps of Yorkshire's very own Jemima Morrell who embarked on one of Thomas Cook's earliest tours of the Alps in 1863, keeping a diary as she went. Inspired by Miss Jemima's journal, I began to gather together poems about female mountaineers.
Together with my own experiences of running and rock climbing, these poems formed the heart of my new collection, No Map Could Show Them. The poems in the book were also enabled by a residency at the Banff Centre in Canada where I got much of my writing done. The title of my book is a quote from Fanny Bullock Workman writing about the glaciers of the Karakoram in 1908.”

This year, we introduced a new walking holiday which follows in the footsteps of those intrepid walkers, from the mighty Eiger to the iconic Matterhorn. While the paths today are well worn and well waymarked, and walking clothes and boots far more comfortable, the breathtaking views remain the same.

Buy a copy online at Amazon or Penguin. (Other retailers are available.)

Further information

Buy Helen’s book:
No Map Could Show Them is available through all good bookshops, and online through a wide number of retailers.
Read a review here >
From the Eiger to the Matterhorn
Follow in the footsteps of Jemima Morrell – and Helen Mort – on a classic two-week walking adventure through the Swiss Alps, from one iconic peak to another – and be inspired!
More about our self-guided walking holidays in the Alps >
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