Overlooked No More: Gertrude Benham, Who Climbed the World One Mountain at a Time

Benham climbed more than 300 peaks in her lifetime to satisfy a “spirit of wanderlust that has entered my soul.”

Credit via Ray Howgego

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If ever a pair of boots could reveal their wearer’s life story, it might be those of the intrepid mountaineer Gertrude Benham.

Benham’s boots, made of brown leather and on display at the Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery in Britain, are so worn that the creases on their sides look like hundreds of tiny walking trails. One step at a time, they led her to destinations that few of her contemporaries ever had the guts or gall to visit.

These trusty companions were, she once wrote, “worn by me on my tramps to Leh,” referring to the old Himalayan trading town in Northern India. She would continue through the Himalayas and the Indus River towns along the silk route to China.

Benham would ultimately scale more than 300 peaks in her lifetime. One of her most harrowing treks was in 1909, when she and her porters hiked up Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

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