The Fearless Explorer
Originally from Perthshire, Polly Murray was the first Scottish woman to climb Mount Everest. The explorer has encountered polar bears and anacondas on her adventures, but one of her biggest challenges was pregnancy. I’d been climbing since aged four, and it was in my blood. My stepfather was a big climber and previously led an expedition on Everest, so when I was 17 I walked up to Base Camp. The climb on Everest was long – we were away for three months! The toughest section was the final two days to the summit. We climbed all day then had a four-hour rest at 26,000ft, the ‘Death Zone’. Leaving at 10pm in the pitch dark we experienced a storm. Other teams turned back at this point but we continued and at 11am we stood on the summit of Mount Everest, the first team for that season which was so special. One of my trips took me to Bylot Island, in the Arctic, it’s uninhabited apart from the polar
bears. It had only been crossed once before in the 1960s and the people who did it had a nightmare on it. My best friend and I thought how hard can it be? Well, it was an experience! We took a rifle and it was glacial so there were crevasses everywhere. It was incredibly dangerous but we were two young girls who had belief in ourselves that we could do it and we did it! Another time in the Amazon rain forest, I was getting ready in the morning and I picked up my sarong and found a tarantula the size of my hand in it. There were caiman crocodiles and anacondas in the river where we would wash in the morning and dug out canoes were our mode of transport so were always in the water. That was an experience! When I became pregnant everybody said it’s not an illness and you can do everything you did before. But for me that wasn’t true. I had horrific pregnancies. My body just didn’t agree. I had problems with my pelvis so I shouldn’t have been doing physical activities. I was teaching skiing in Norway at five months pregnant. Two months after my second son was born I did the Cateran Yomp which is a 54-mile walk in 24 hours. I probably shouldn’t have done that so soon. It’s so important to me to keep going though. It makes me feel good. The contrasts in life for me are so important. Standing on the top of Everest, being on a remote island in northern Canada and then coming home to the streets of Perth, I think it’s what keeps me going. For me it’s really important to get young people out and about doing physical activities. Being a woman, I like to see myself as a bit of a role model. Life has had it challenges, but I have learned more about myself through being a parent, than anything else. I thought it would be a breeze but they challenge you. I have learned so much about myself. It’s so rewarding. And also things matter more, things matter less. You realise life is short, and happiness if the most important thing and, for me, that’s getting outside in the wild.
‘Everyone said pregnancy is not an illness. But I had horrific pregnancies. My body didn’t agree.’
Top, Jasper Conran, £40, necklace, Jasper Conran, £15, Trousers, £35, all at Debenhams. Hair and make-up: Stacey Stewart.