Myrtle Simpson, originally from Aldershot, qualified as a Radiographer in the 1950’s and her first job was at the Belford Hospital in Fort William. At this time Myrtle had already discovered the magic of the hills and was used to walking miles. Whilst in Fort William she worked under the magic of Donald Duff, a Mountain Rescue pioneer, and became accepted by the local Lochaber climbers, who were lead primarily by Jimmy Ness.
Myrtle chose to camp at Achintee for an entire year where she spent all of her spare time climbing, walking and boating and during this time also learnt to ski on the golf course at Spean Bridge. At this time Myrtle may have been the first official mountain guide on Ben Nevis, where she guided clients up Tower Ridge. This innovative thinking allowed many less experienced and less confident climbers and outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy guided access to spectacular walking and climbing routes in the area.
However Myrtle had her sights set on higher mountains and travelled to New Zealand where, at that time there were very few climbers in the country. She managed to find many virgin peaks; along with major expeditions to the higher peaks such as Mt. Aspiring, a massive challenge that involved a three week walk in before any climbing could begin.
As soon as she moved back to Edinburgh she began planning an expedition to Peru. Funds from the Mount Everest Trust allowed herself and Billy Wallace to sail out to Lima where they met with Hugh Simpson. Together they climbed six new peaks, each over 19,000ft and were the first British climbers to reach the summit of the 22,000ft Huascaran via a new route.
Following this expedition Myrtle travelled home and was married to Hugh in 1959. Together, they began preparing for a six month spell in Spitbergen in the Arctic for Hugh to carry out research. However during this time Myrtle found out she was pregnant and, admitting to being “too selfish to stay behind”, they went as a family with a six week old baby.
Myrtle was also the first woman to ski across Greenland and had numerous journeys to arctic regions on ski or canoe. She also attempted to ski to the North Pole, and reached the most northerly point by a woman unsupported at the time. She can also add explorations of China and further expeditions to Peru to her many adventures.
Myrtle now tends to canoe more as she cannot carry vast loads and still ski’s and competes on the Scottish Masters circuit.