Highlands & Islands

Skier and climber Myrtle Simpson awarded Polar Medal

Myrtle Simpson crossing Greenland in the 1960s Image copyright Myrtle Simpson
Image caption Myrtle Simpson crossing Greenland in the 1960s

A woman described as a legend of Scotland's climbing and skiing communities has been awarded the Polar Medal.

Myrtle Simpson, who is originally from Aldershot and now lives in the Cairngorms, has been recognised for achievements in the Arctic.

In the 1960s she became the first woman to ski across Greenland with four others on an unsupported expedition.

Her husband, Hugh, was awarded a Polar Medal more than 50 years ago.

The Simpsons are the only the second husband and wife to both be awarded the medal. Sir Ranulph Fiennes and his late wife Virginia were the first.

Image copyright BBC Radio Scotland
Image caption Mrs Simpson is well known in Scotland's climbing and skiing communities

The medal is approved by The Queen and is given to those who have undertaken expeditions in extreme hardship.

Mrs Simpson has still to hear the date when she will receive the medal. She told BBC Radio Scotland she hoped it would not clash with her competing in a ski race against a 97-year-old fellow skier George Stewart.

The forthcoming Masters category race sees Mrs Simpson defending the title.

She said: "If I don't take part I'm never going to have the chance to win the trophy again."

'Mother of skiing'

The Polar Medal was first awarded in 1904 as a reward to those who took part in Captain Scott's first expedition to Antarctica.

Mrs Simpson, who is in her 80s and worked at Belford Hospital in Fort William after qualifying as a radiographer, went on her first expedition to the Arctic in the 1960s.

After becoming the first woman to ski across Greenland, she attempted to ski to the North Pole in 1969, getting further than any other woman had previously.

Image copyright Myrtle Simpson
Image caption Mrs Simpson with a beer can dropped by a US aircraft during her crossing of Greenland
Image copyright Myrtle Simpson
Image caption Mrs Simpson has been recognised for her achievements on Arctic expeditions

Her husband, her companion on all her Arctic expeditions, was awarded his own Polar Medal for his work in the Antarctic.

Mrs Simpson is an experienced climber and has completed routes in Scotland as well New Zealand, Peru and China.

She is also known as the "Mother of Scottish skiing" by playing a part in establishing Scotland's first ski centres, including CairnGorm near Aviemore.

In 2013, she became the sixth recipient of The Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture. The accolade was presented at the Fort William Mountain Festival.

Image copyright Myrtle Simpson
Image caption Mrs Simpson on her skis in Greenland

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