AN 87-YEAR-OLD woman described as the “mother of Scottish skiing” has been awarded the prestigious Polar Medal – more than half-a-century after her husband was given the same honour.

Myrtle Simpson, who 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, 87, a retired professor of pathology at Glasgow University, was awarded a Polar Medal in 1963.

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

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

It was first awarded in 1904 as a reward to those who took part in Captain Scott’s first expedition to Antarctica.

“I am delighted and surprised to be awarded the medal. I thought it was a mistake at first,” said Mrs Simpson, who lives at Kincraig in the Highlands.

“There have been arguments in the past over who gets the medal. For example, all the members of the Scotia expedition in 1902 – at the same sort of time as Scott’s – led by William Speirs Bruce never got a medal. They all came back, but he didn’t. Yet he is the one who was celebrated.

“There have only been nine women to be awarded the medal previously. It used to be awarded to mainly scientists, not adventurers or people who showed endeavour. That’s all changed it seems.

“I am not a scientist. I still kayak and ski – though I’ve been unable to ski this season so far because of the lack of snow.

“I would love to go back to Greenland – there are hundreds of unclimbed mountains there – but it may be a step too far. Iceland is a possibility though.

“Life is for living. On these trips you have to be self-sufficient and have a sense of adventure.”

Mrs Simpson 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.

Her husband, her companion on all her Arctic expeditions, was awarded his own Polar Medal for his work as medic 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.

She is also credited with being a key motivator in the setting up of Glencoe and Nevis Range Ski centres Peter Nienow, a glaciologist at Edinburgh University, has also received the medal.