Gwen Moffat – an incredible lady – How many know her story?

Bare foot and brave Gwen Moffat.

Bare foot and brave Gwen Moffat. This photo is incredible bare feet on the rock!

I was very lucky to have been brought up with some many  friends telling me the tales of past Mountaineers and other incredible people.  I have always loved books especially mountaineering books and as my Blog stated the other day and stirred a bit of interest with many stating what their favourites were. It made an interesting discussion and I updated my blog with the comments.


Few nowadays will know the tale of Gwen Moffat  – She was the first female British Mountain Guide in 1953 and an incredible climber in her day . Her book “Space between my feet” is an incredible tale of a single Mum in these early days after the war.  These were the days well before “Women’s Lib”  and this book is the tale of these days. I advise everyone to get a copy and read this story. She also wrote a great book ” Two Star Red”  about the early days of the RAF Mountain Rescue Service.

Space below my feet !

Space below my feet a great read and has been republished.

Book Review by I. Robertson –  Gwen Moffat was Britain’s first female mountain guide. Moreover, in the austere world of post-war Britain where women were expected to stay home and get married, Gwen’s Bohemian attitude was very much against the norm – in fact she was 20 years ahead of her time.

Her autobiography “Space Below My Feet” was out of print for many years and it was long over-due being republished.
Like so many people later, Gwen just lived for climbing. The book is fascinating, not only for the tales of climbing and mountains, but also just how different her lifestyle was for the times. Dossing in climbing barns and sleeping under hedges was not lady-like behaviour  in 1947! – Highly recommended. I still am amazed at her attitude as the Mountaineering World was pretty slow to appreciate the role of women in the mountains in the 50’s and later on. Even in my time 90’s when we got women in Mountain Rescue in the RAF it was a tricky time and yet many of the girls showed us all how to do it! How Gwen did this in these early days I have no clue, she is an inspiration to us all and how few know her story. It is a story worthy of passing on and admiring her achievements throughout her life. Get that book “Space between my Feet and enjoy it”.

Two Star Red the story of RAF MR

Two Star Red the story of RAF MR

The book I love is Two Star Red that is a book I always  wanted and was lucky to get a copy many years ago. I have had it for over 30 years and it is signed by so many in RAF Mountain Rescue. I was an honour to have met Gwen at the 60 th Anniversary RAF MRT party and she signed my copy. She was looking great and very fit, we had girls in RAF Mountain Rescue then and I have a great photo of them meeting.  Many of the greats of RAF MR have signed this including Johnnie Lees , John Hinde, George Bruce, Ray Sefton, Taff Tunah, and so many others. I take it to re unions and have so many comments and signatures from troops.

Two Star Red by Gwen Moffat is a great book about the early days of the RAF Mountain Rescue and gives an  insight into mountaineering and mountain rescue in the 50’s and 60’s. Gwen married Johnnie Lees and was one of the first women guides, she has had an incredible life and is a fairly well-known author. Her other books describe how hard it was to be a single woman climber with a young child in these years. How things have changed, thank goodness. You can pick up some of Gwen’s books on Amazon she is still an incredible lady.


This is from an article a few years ago about her.

” When I look back now on my climbing times, it seems like a different life. You lose flexibility, and

once your physical strength goes, so too does your confidence, and that’s it. Nowadays I’ll look at pictures of some of the things I did, the crux of some route on Ben Nevis, and suddenly I’ll think, did I do that? Was that really me? ■”

I was very lucky to meet Gwen at a big Reunion many years ago and today I received and email from her it made my day, what a lady! 14 Sept 2015




About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Book, Books, Mountain rescue, SAR, Views Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Gwen Moffat – an incredible lady – How many know her story?

  1. Aye, both books are tremendous reads and she’s had an amazing life. I was surprised and delighted when she supplied a review of a book for Scottish Mountaineer recently. Me! Getting an email from Gwen Moffat! Really made my week.


  2. Peter Kay says:

    I’ll sign the book at the next reunion Hev’s 🙂


  3. Dick Dorling says:

    Heavy, Gwen Moffat was before my time and also Johnnie Lees.

    I liked the last few words you wrote in the article that you knew always when you had done something special. It happened to me with Dan on Mur y Niwl. I was pushing hard to climb the route and Dan was not overly excited about the idea.

    The first pitch with the reverse mantle shelf will not be forgotten by the legions of your friends who have done the route. It appeared that there was nothing below after the move, and the only pro was a huge wobbly block above that one could sling the rope over if the mantle shelf did not work out. I slung the rope over the block and had thus laid everything on the mantle shelf. It went without further incidence.

    As Dan arrived at the summit I know he was very happy and just said, like you, “One knows when you have done something of great character.”

    Maybe 1958

    I remember Dan telling me later that Tony Moulam, who made the first ascent, that this route he would never trade for all of the 20 plus outher first ascents he had done.



    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dick Dorling says:

    Heavy, Thanks for yours. I have spent quite a time on the operating table. Longest was the removal of 75% of my colon. The result was zero chemo which was quite a surprise to everyone.
    I missed details of your battle which I would like to hear of.

    Cheers Dick (aka The Semi Colon)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mark says:

    I’ve read Space Below My Feet and it’s well worth a few hours of anyone’s time. A real timepiece. As I recall there’s quiet a litinary of her climbing friends who died in accidents in the text.


  6. Ken Ross says:

    Hi Heavey,

    Read her books first time round all these years ago.
    In one her books, I seem to recall, pics of MRT throwing snowballs at the press after a particularly difficult rescue/body recovery on the Ben

    Ken R
    Heavy, when is your book going to be finished and published?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: 5 Women Climbers in History Who Were Totally Badass – To the Hills

  8. stephen redstone says:

    read the chapter in “Two Star Red~” about David Dattner he , at that time became inspector of Mountain Rescue and was famous for his “needle work parties ” . I remember one of his favourite sayings when referring to mountain survival -If you break a leg on a mountain you hop, if you break the other one shuffle along on your arse,if you’ve got piles its just your unlucky day

    good grimping

    Stephen Redstone

    Liked by 1 person

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