Book Review:How to Climb Mt. Blanc in a Skirt by Mick Conefrey

In the span of a few months, i’ve read more than 3 books in between doing school work and in between writing for 4-5 platforms.  Reading frequently not only enhances your memory but it enriches you with knowing more than you did before. No, this is not a service announcement but a fact.

Anyways, How to Climb Mr. Blanc in a Skirt by Mick Conefrey surpasses all my prior assumptions. When I first picked up this book, and slightly glanced at the cover and perused the pages. I misinterpreted this book to be a dry account on women’s history. Lucky for me, I read each chapter fully and can conclude that it has yielded a hardcore fan of female adventurers. Me.

This non-fiction account on women in history making and not making succesful voyages opened up my eyes to the trials and tribulations of women breaking into a man’s world, concerning traversing far and distant lands.

This historical travel guide was skillfully written by Mick Conefrey, an award winning film maker and acclaimed writer of The Adventurer’s Handbook.  It takes an empathetic man to write so candidly about the struggles women have encountered from the turning point of the 19th century and onwards. His humor, insight and accurate portrayel  of female explorers  flourish this pepto bismal- colored paper back.

The book, itself, is broken into five chapters: Who, Why and How?; Where?; People; Women Travel to Venus, Men Travel to Mars; and How to survive foreign travel. Each chapter has intricate sub-categories, etched with black n’ white illustrations of what the Middle East, North Africa, Asia and parts of South America were like in an era where exploration was a fresh new concept for Victorian women.

My favorite chapter, thus far, was ” Women Travel to Venus. Men Travel to Mars“.  It opens up with a frank quote from twentieth-century mountaineer, Annie Peck.

“One of the chief difficulties in a women’s undertaking an expedition of this nature is that every man believes he knows better what should be done than she”.   

After turning this page, the reader sees a creative illustration of former Olympic sailor Ella Mallart and of parliament member Peter Fleming enmeshed in sketchings of Chinese architecture, symbols and cameras.  The next page juxtaposes both explorers in  a neat, lineless chart and exposes the hardshipes female explorers, such as Mallart, face in comparison to male explorers. The rest of the chapter follows in that pattern and also gears into narratives of the explorer’s personal lives playing out in their voyages.

Romance, heartbreak, financial disturbances, prejudices and media-laced scandals trail several of these female explorers, poignantly embraced by Conefrey’s rambunctious imagination. It’s a must-read for fans of women’s rights, historical non-fiction and of fine-tuned literature.

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