Trailblazer, Pioneer, Adventurer, Mountain Climber, Polar Explorer, Writer & Mother
Myrtle Simpson is a name you won’t see in too many history books, despite her long standing history as pioneer in the outdoors. Her adventures were remarkable for many reasons, including the fact that she was doing them during a time in which it was expected that women would stay at home to keep house and mind their children. Myrtle wasn’t convinced that was the best for her, or her children… so whenever she could, she brought them along for the adventures too! She remarks, “the happiest I have ever been was in a little tent with the kids. When you hear people wailing now about how bad everything is, I would say: ‘Take your family and go camping.’”
A rich life of experience and unforgettable expeditions is exactly what Myrtle has lived. She is still adamant that she won’t change her active lifestyle and you can’t help but believe her when you still see her out on the slopes each winter, even now in her ninth decade of life. In her own words, “It is the very best sport for the elderly – the lift takes you up and all you have to do is ski down.”
In 2017, Myrtle Simpson was awarded the Polar Medal for services in the Arctic, from Prince William at Buckingham Palace, over 50 years after she became the first women to ski across Greenland in an unsupported expedition with four others. An accomplishment well deserving of the award.
Myrtle’s life is extraordinary, but don’t expect to hear that from her! Named by National Geographic as one of four women who “defied expectations and explored the world”, her life has taken her around the world from Spitsbergen to Greenland, from the Scottish Highlands to New Zealand, from the high Arctic to Peru. Myrtle and her husband, Hugh, have always made a point of taking their children with them as they pursued their work and passion – expeditions, research and adventure. “We thought our kids had a much better time coming with us rather than us leaving them behind.” Myrtle remarks.
Remembering one particular expedition, where things didn’t go as planned, “We took the kids as far as we could which was the most northerly school in Canada and Rory, our youngest child was just months old”. The year was 1969 and Myrtle, Hugh and fellow expeditioner Roger Tuft set out to read the North Pole. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to. Myrtle explains, “It was frightful to begin with – the ice was churned up and we were going about three miles a day. Then things got better but the radio went on fire. We argued for two days and three nights. In the end we chucked it in and turned around and we went and picked up the kids.”
Whatever the task or interest at hand, Myrtle has blazed her own trail. She has faced criticism for some of her decisions but firmly stood by her choices and set out to prove the naysayers wrong, perhaps also proving that you can have it all.
Myrtle has experienced places more people only ever dream about, she has reached heights many will never climb and been on expeditions where their eyes are possibly the first to ever gaze upon these remote corners of the earth. Throughout all these experiences she was raising children, writing 13 books, collection specimens for museum botanical collections and taking time to enjoy life.
Today, she is still adventuring, competing, writing and spending time with her family. For a woman who has accomplished so much, when so many said she couldn’t or shouldn’t, there is still so much life to live!