The Sunday Telegraph

Mont Blanc climber will wear bonnet and boa to copy pioneer

Adventurer to dress in full period garb in homage to 19th-century female explorer who made summit

- By Simon de Bruxelles

A BRITISH adventurer is to climb Mont Blanc wearing a replica of a Victorian-era ladies’ outfit in honour of the woman who conquered it in 1838.

Lise Wortley will eschew modern high-altitude gear for voluminous pantaloons, an ankle-length woollen coat and a feather boa to climb the 15,777ft peak in the French Alps later this year.

She will wear a huge bonnet to provide protection against tumbling rocks and freezing night-time temperatur­es.

Ms Wortley is hoping to emulate the pioneering achievemen­t of Henriette d’Angeville the year after Queen Victoria ascended the throne.

She said: “I wanted to know what women went through and I don’t think I would understand it if I was in modern clothes. Even nearly 200 years later there’s still many more men than women in this outdoor adventure space. I was only able to find one woman mountain guide to take me up Mont Blanc yet there are dozens of guys.

“I think there’s a direct correlatio­n between the way women weren’t given a platform and still not seeing themselves reflected in this world.”

Ms Wortley, 34, is planning her climb for the start of September in order to reach the summit on the anniversar­y of d’Angeville’s four-day ascent.

Students at Morley College near Ms Wortley’s home in south London are making the outfit.

In 1830s France, women did not climb mountains and there was no clothing designed for such activities. D’Angeville, a 44-year-old French aristocrat who had dreamt of climbing Mont Blanc her entire life having grown up in its shadow, designed an outfit to protect her whatever the conditions she would encounter. Made without the benefit of modern lightweigh­t materials, her clothes weighed 27lbs.

Ms Wortley is having her gear custom made, including hobnail boots, and her bonnet is being created by the milliner who provided hats for the Harry Potter movies.

D’Angeville had six guides and six porters to carry her supplies, which included 26 roast chickens, 18 bottles of wine, two veal loins, a leg of lamb, 12 lemons and three pounds of chocolate.

Ms Wortley is vegetarian and will be accompanie­d only by a female filmmaker and a mountain guide. She says she may take a bottle of wine for emergencie­s.

Suffering from altitude sickness D’Angeville wrote in her account that she found new determinat­ion when her guides suggested they could carry her. Appalled at the idea of bottling out just below the summit she insisted that when she finally made it they formed a human tower so she could climb higher than any man in history.

It is estimated more than 1,400 people have died attempting to climb Mont Blanc. Ms Wortley said: “It’s the most deadly mountain in the world because more people die on it every year. That’s because it’s quite accessible and a lot of people who go up aren’t actually prepared because they think it’s easy.”

Climate change has brought other hazards. “We are going to try to take the route that Henriette did but because of global warming everything is getting warmer and that section is quite dangerous. Rocks slip because the ice is melting,” said Ms Wortley.

Some time after reaching the summit of Mont Blanc, d’Angeville discovered she was not the first woman to set foot there. In 1808 Marie Paradis, a chambermai­d at a Chamonix inn, went up but her ascent was considered inadmissib­le as a record because she passed out and had to be carried part of the way.

Ms Wortley said: “It’s so hard to organise these things, getting the funding, organising the route and I have my job as well, that the climb feels like it could be the easiest bit of the whole thing.”

Her attempt to climb Mont Blanc is sponsored by the adventure travel company Explore Wild.

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 ?? Left, went through ?? Lise Wortley said donning the clothes would help her know what women such as Henriette d’Angeville,
Left, went through Lise Wortley said donning the clothes would help her know what women such as Henriette d’Angeville,

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