Jasmin Paris on her way to victory in the 2019 Spine Race: Bob Smith/grough. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Jasmin Paris on her way to victory in the 2019 Spine Race: Bob Smith/grough

A research project is underway to examine women’s participation in mountain activities.

Women in the Hills is a new network formed to look at ways of increasing female access to upland landscapes.

The Art and Humanities Research Council is funding the network, which is led by academics at three English universities.

A spokesperson for the network said it has been formed to discover the factors that hinder, and improve, women’s experiences of running, hiking and climbing in UK uplands. The network will produce a set of recommended interventions to enhance women’s access to outdoor leisure.

The group said women’s participation in outdoor leisure lags behind men’s. A recent study estimated that only 35 per cent of participants in general outdoor activities and 20 per cent in mountain sports are female.

This is despite the success of athletes such as Jasmin Paris who not only won the 2019 Montane Spine Race along the full length of the Pennine Way in winter conditions, but smashed the course record. She was also expressing her breast milk for her baby at checkpoints.

The With network also points to feats such as that of climber Margaret Jackson who in 1878 forged a new route up the Dom, Switzerland’s second-highest mountain, and Ada Anderson who speed-walked 1,500 miles in 1,000 hours.

The spokesperson said: “These women found what many others, before and since, have discovered: that the benefits of upland activities, and the barriers to getting involved in them, are distinct for women in the hills.

“A female mountaineer’s experiences are different to her male counterparts, yet only 3 per cent of sports-science studies between 2011 and 2013 used female participants.

“Women’s outdoor clothing is often produced by ‘pinking and shrinking’ equipment designed for male bodies. These factors correlate with lower female participation in outdoor leisure. And the inclusion of women’s voices in cultural accounts is similarly muted: key nature writing anthologies are up to 90 per cent male-dominated.”

With is led by Dr Rachel Hewitt of Newcastle University, Dr Kerri Andrews of Edge Hill University and Dr Joanna Taylor of the University of Manchester.

Working alongside the project’s partners and advisory board: conservation charity the John Muir Trust, women’s trailrunning company Girls on Hills, pelvic health campaigners Pelvic Roar, the National Trust and the Forestry Commission’s poet-in-residence 2019 Zakiya Mackenzie, it will assess how women have experienced the uplands in the past, and ask why that matters for societal, psychological and health developments in the future. “Together, With and its collaborators will identify strategies to promote women in the hills in the coming decade,” the spokesperson said.

The network will examine the conditions that have shaped women’s land use from the flourishing of outdoor leisure in the early 1800s to the present day. The individuals and organisations will work together to produce a series of guidelines and interventions for cultural and political groups to use to improve the quality and frequency of women’s inclusion in upland activities.

Izzy Filor, a conservation officer with the John Muir Trust, said: “The John Muir Trust are really excited to be working with a diverse group of organisations as part of this research network. We hope that the With research network will inspire and support people to experience wild places, especially those who may not currently feel able to.”

Founder and co-director of Girls on Hills Keri Wallace said: “Girls on Hills are excited to be part of a diverse and talented team, coming together with the goal of rewriting the history of women in the UK hills, and setting a new and easier path for women in the future.”

More details of the new network are on the Women in the Hills website.