Take a glance around your local urban climbing gym and you're likely to see a pretty even gender split. It could be 50/50, could be 40/60 in either direction. Even at your local crag you are likely to see an increasing proportion of female climbers. If you've been climbing for 10-15 years or longer you may to recognize this as a significant shift from the scene at the crag when you first started climbing. However, take a look at your bookcase back home where you keep all your adventure books. Take a look at your climbing autobiographies, your books of mountaineering photography, your adventure-inspired prose and poetry. What's the gender split of the authors? While female participation in climbing has steadily risen over the years, women remain underrepresented in adventure publishing.
This year, as the UK marks the centenary of the suffrage movement gaining the legal right for women to vote, our friends at Sheffield-based independent publisher Vertebrate Publishing have begun down a path to redress the balance. Owner Jon Barton, a climber and runner himself, explains: 'Autumn 2018 will see the publication of Waymaking. It is a collection of outdoor adventure inspired art, poetry and prose by women. Edited by Claire Carter, Helen Mort, Heather Dawe and Camilla Barnard. It is what the This Girl Can women went out and did.'
Vertebrate have a track record of publishing many walking, running, mountain biking and climbing guidebooks—such as their iconic Peak District Bouldering guide—and some of our favorite recent pieces of mountain literature (we are currently enjoying The Magician's Glass by Ed Douglas). But like much of the adventure publishing industry, women remain underrepresented, an Jon Barton is frank about. 'As a publisher Vertebrate has wholly failed to engage a female audience and champion books written by woman, in a genre which arguably we own—mountaineering narrative.'
'Vertebrate was foundered with the right intentions, we actively sought out female authors, we endeavored to litter our books with photographs of real female athletes. But we are going to do a bit more.'
The royalties are going to two charities; The John Muir Trust, who campaign for access to our wild spaces, and Rape Crisis, who work to end sexual violence. At The Project Magazine we think this is a fantastic initiative to get behind. The book is being launched via a Kickstarter campaign and you can find out more here. We hope Waymaking marks the beginning of a sea change in adventure publishing.