I first read this a couple of years ago now; I loved it and I still think about it all the time. I really can't recommend it enough, particularly if you're a woman spending a lot of time outdoors and feeling quite alone in it.
Waymaking is an incredibly important contribution to adventure literature. It’s a brilliant and powerful collection of essays, stories, poems, photographs and artworks representing decades of unheard voices. The anthology moves swiftly from extreme environments to those more familiar, discussing femininity and climbing and relationships all in the same breath. Each piece is authentic and heartfelt, and Waymaking is striking throughout in its empathy towards the human experience, simultaneously both gentle and fierce.
There is no talk of conquering or victory; instead, the interest is in existing alongside the wilderness and the simplicity of enjoying it, and the landscapes, in turn, allow women to understand and accept their own feelings or place in life. It’s a welcome change from male-dominated narratives where adventurers claiming mountains as their own. The landscapes here are open and welcoming, accessible to anyone, not just the experts.
Each piece is unique and specific, but Cath Drake’s poem runs through the chapter breaks and confidently ties it all together. Tessa Lyon’s images carefully frame each chapter, simple but beautifully expansive. I was surprised by how much art and photography is scattered throughout this collection; I know very little about visual images but found myself enjoying the introduction to elements of adventure I hadn’t previously considered. There is a careful and well-judged balance between writing and image, between prose and poetry; topics straying far and wide but never losing its focus. Of the whole collection, I found maybe two or three pieces that didn’t deeply resonate – impressive considering the breadth of the 70+ pieces. Part of the beauty of this book is that it is a success both as a collection but also as individual pieces. It’s a book you can absorb as a whole or just dip into when you need five minutes of inspiration or reassurance.
The women contributing come from a range of locations and backgrounds, some names very familiar and others less so. It’s been an excellent gateway to discovering many talented writers and artists that I hadn’t come across before.
I finished Waymaking inspired and comforted, feeling less alone in the way I experience the mountains and the wilderness. I’m a little bit braver now heading out on my own small adventures, reassured by a multitude of other women who are reaching for the same things. It's a collection I'm sure I’ll come back to again and again.
(I was provided with a free copy by Vertebrate Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)
Predominantly climbing/outdoors literature, mountaineering history and nature writing.