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Fisher's Favourites - Gwen Moffat

Written by George Fisher

Image for article Fisher's Favourites - Gwen Moffat

For the 10th of September our Fisher's Favourite is climber, mountain guide, and writer Gwen Moffat.

Gwen was born in 1924, and started climbing in North Wales when she was 21.

In 1953 she became the first female British Mountain Guide, and went on climb in Britain from Cornwall to the Isle of Skye; in the French, Swiss, Italian and Slovenian Alps; in the Rockies and the Sierras in the USA, often barefoot, claiming many first female ascents all over Europe.

In 1961 she wrote her autobiography ‘Space below my feet’ describing her bohemian life, going AWOL from the army, travelling the world, and her climbing exploits.

She retired from guiding in the 1970’s, and only retired from rock climbing in her mid-seventies. Now 93, and based in Cumbria, she is still a keen walker, and has written over 30 detective books, in particular the Miss Pink series featuring Melinda Pink, a middle aged magistrate and climber!

“In 1947 our introduction to the Lakes was Great Gable in the rain, our first climbs: Sepulchre and Kern Knott’s Crack. Dave (Thomas) fell off the crux of Sepulchre, removed his boots and did it in socks.

Kern Knott’s Crack went marginally smoother, and fine for me, barefooted.
It rained a lot. Our survival gear was old Army oilskins. Then we went to Central Buttress and failed at the chockstone, trying to climb it direct, without rope engineering. Arthur Dolphin approached (solo, in nailed boots) and sympathised. He had fallen off CB a few days before (also in nails). Tricounis were standard wear of the day, plimsolls or bare feet were for dry rock.
Later there was guiding: Shepherd’s Crag: the traditional start for beginners, then Troutdale, Gillercombe, a host of other delights, and back to Gable. And towards the end, living in New Mexico, considering where I should finish, I came home to Cumbria, did my last climb, solo in Combe Ghyll, and took to fell walking with the great horseshoes, picking out access and descents by the lonely ways. Now it’s the little hills, anything so long as it’s high. On the top of Little Mell Fell you’re still on top of the world."

We'd love to hear your stories too!
Learn more about our month of celebrations and competitions, and how to get involved here:

- Victoria, Liz, and Sean