International Women’s Day. Lassies I admire !

International Women’s Day

I was very lucky to have been brought up with some many friends telling me the tales of past Mountaineers and other incredible people. In these days there were few women mountaineers. 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 even 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 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 hard times where attitudes were a lot different. 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.

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”. I have copies ready for my


Gwen also wrote another book I love 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 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!

The BMC Commissioned a film about her life


In 2015 Jen Randall and Claire Carter made a film, Operation Moffat, based on Moffat’s autobiographical book Space below my Feet. The film was premiered on the Banff Mountain Film Festival UK tour and has won 7 international film awards. A brilliant insight into an k there are so many incredible lassies role models for the future.

Mine are :

My Mum

My sisters

My Stepdaughter Yvette

Jenny Graham World round the World record holder cycling.

Di Gilbert Mountaineer

Heather Morning Mountaineer

Molly Porter Ex Cairngorm MRT Team Leader in the 70’s

All these and many more are incredible folk. I hope I can get my Grand daughters to meet some of them and learn about life from their lives.

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 and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Books, Enviroment, Equipment, Family, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Rock Climbing, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

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