Arctic guide role for double Everest conqueror

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A climber who became the youngest woman in the world to scale both the north and south sides of Mount Everest is to train as an Arctic polar guide.

Mollie Hughes successfully climbed the Himalayan peak from its north side in May at the age of 26, following a climb to the summit from its south side in 2012.

The 27-year-old Edinburgh-based climber is to embark on 18 months of specialist training with Scottish youth charity The Polar Academy.

She aims to be part of its 2019 expedition team, guiding 10 teenage pupils from Bathgate Academy in West Lothian.

The charity supports secondary school age pupils who undertake 10 months of rigorous training at their school and in the Highlands before journeying for 10 days through eastern Greenland.

Ms Hughes, who was born in Devon and works with Tiso Group, will be trained by Craig Mathieson, founder and expedition leader of The Polar Academy, based in Bo’ness.

She said: “I am absolutely thrilled to have been approached by Craig to train as a polar guide with the aim of being part of his core team in 2019.

“While I have some of the technical skills already, the months ahead promise to be challenging and hugely rewarding.

“I have followed the work of The Polar Academy for a number of years and I’m really looking forward to being part of a dynamic charity that’s working to positively impact on young lives through immersion in the great outdoors, including the wilds of Arctic Greenland.

“Hopefully, I can impart some of my own experiences and help the youths selected for The Polar Academy to recognise that they have the qualities within themselves to change their outlook and lives for the better.”

Under Mr Mathieson’s guidance, the climber will learn essential skills for Arctic exploration designed to ensure she can look after herself and the group in all weather conditions.

These skills include natural navigation by observing the ice, wind and clouds and recognising the significance of changes in the feel and sound of the ice.

Ms Hughes will be joining Jess Ainslie, an instructor at Glenmore Lodge near Aviemore who has been part of Mr Mathieson’s core team since 2015.

Mr Mathieson, who in 2014 was named Scotland’s first Explorer in Residence at the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS) in 129 years, said: “From her feats in the mountains of Scotland and the Alps to Mount Everest, Mollie has already demonstrated that her modest, unassuming demeanour belies rock-solid determination and a cool focus allied to impressive technical abilities.

“As a mixed expedition group, it’s essential we have highly competent, motivated female guides in the core team.”

He added: “In the months ahead, I’m really looking forward to helping Mollie develop some specific skills that are fundamental for our work in the Arctic environment.

“Her training will be challenging, with a focus on learning to read the ice terrain, navigate in all weather conditions and demonstrate the capability to look after herself and the team in all circumstances.

“Like Jess, Mollie is a fantastic role model and I’ve no doubt that in the years ahead Mollie will firmly establish herself as one of very few specialist polar guides.”