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.

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