From the 7 Summits to the South Pole: Meet Record-Breaking Mountain Explorer Meagan McGrath
Meagan McGrath has climbed the Seven Summits—the highest peak on each continent—completed the first Canadian solo ski to the South Pole, and taken a seven-month journey through the Himalayas. Learn more about her extraordinary adventures ahead,
Tell us about your childhood; how did you discover your passion for climbing and exploring in extreme environments?
I’ve always loved being outdoors. When I was young, I spent a lot of time outside. There were things to explore, whether it be the local swamp or pond—or lakes and cliffs. I’d often pretend I was climbing a Himalayan mountain, crossing the Sahara, or that I was a polar explorer – it brought me great joy to dream that, one day, if I worked really hard, I too could experience some of my own adventures.
Did you ever face any pushback as a woman embarking in a mostly male-dominated area?
There was certainly a sense of doubt in terms of my ability, based on my height and potentially because I was a woman. That frustrated me, as I know I’m capable of quite a lot – I’ve always been strong and able to endure physically and mentally.
If you heed the doubters, then you might lead a small life defined by the limitations they’ve placed on you. Don’t lead a small life – lead the life you want to live. That being said, I’ve had people who have supported me from day one – and these people have helped build within me a foundation of vision and courage to pursue my dreams.
“If you heed the doubters, then you might lead a small life defined by the limitations they’ve placed on you. Don’t lead a small life – lead the life you want to live.”
Meagan is wearing the Merino Plains Sweater
Have you noticed an increase in women climbers and outdoor explorers over the years?
There has been a slight increase. You can bet these women are tough, strong, and smart. However, women of all walks of life possess this strength. We are all dreamers, planners and executors – mothers, aunts, sisters. I believe we ought to let women have the opportunity to choose their path, and if a woman is the first on the path, breaking trail, leading the way – well, I don’t much mind if the trail is on a mountain or in a boardroom.
“I believe we ought to let women have the opportunity to choose their path, and if a woman is the first on the path, breaking trail, leading the way – well, I don’t much mind if the trail is on a mountain or in a boardroom.”
Was there ever a moment on one of your trips when you thought to yourself, “this might be it?”
Yes. These are not experiences one seeks while on adventure. These aren’t “cool stories.” It means something went wrong, either by bad luck or a bad decision. Either way, hopefully you can get to the other side of the problem, learn from it, and if it was a smart technique you applied, then keep it in your bag of tricks for other situations; if it was an error that can be prevented – then never repeat it.
Meagan is wearing the Lumberjill Shirt
How do you channel your inner strength to keep going when you feel defeated, scared, or alone out there?
The beauty of adventuring is that you will be challenged by something that isn’t what you are accustomed to – that’s the point. You might not know what the challenges will be – but you know that you will have to find the strength inside to overcome. You might encounter a scary situation (rock fall, crevasse field, dangerous snakes) – and you have to embrace the fear, think, and do the smart thing. It’s this requirement to be calm, smart, and strong that draws me to adventuring.
What advice do you have for women who are interested in climbing or exploring?
For climbing and adventuring, contacting a local climbing gym or club is the first step. For most people, I would suggest climbing because it is a fairly quick-reward activity, meaning most folks either love it or hate it the first time out. When it comes to adventuring, figure out what adventure you would like to embark on – there are many travel companies that work with newbies and can guide folks through their first adventurous experience.
Photos by: Angela Gzowski
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