Weekend Warm-Up: Operation Moffat

Operation Moffat. Photo: Light Shed Pictures

“I don’t think I’ve ever been frightened” — Gwen Moffat

In 1945, Gwen Moffat was a young driver in the British Army. After the war, she went off to the craggy mountains and sea cliffs of North Wales and South West England, climbing, living off scraps and sleeping rough. Ever restless, Moffat longed to cast her net wider, so she hitchhiked across Europe to climb in Chamonix, with little more than a sleeping bag and a climbing rope to her name. Moffat was essentially living dirtbag style, before that term was invented to describe the threadbare approach of American climbing luminaries Yvon Chouinard, Fred Beckey and company.

Her host of jobs included forester, artist’s model, and helmsman on a boat. These passing occupations allowed her to hitch and climb across the Alps, the Rockies and the Sierras. Moffat eventually became Britain’s leading female climber and the first woman in the country to qualify as a mountain guide.

In this charming short film, two young British climbers, Claire Carter and Jen Randall, tramp across Britain from North Wales to the Isle of Skye, in Scotland. They take on some of Moffat’s climbs and run, camp and swim among the mountains, as she would have done some 70 years ago.

Claire Carter at the 2018 Banff Mountain Film Festival

The film mixes interviews with the then 91-year-old Moffat, scenes from Carter and Randall’s hijinks and backstory on Moffat. It was awarded Best Film at the prestigious Sheffield Adventure Film Festival in 2016.

Such was Moffat’s colourful character and zest for adventure, that you may find yourself asking, as Carter does on many occasions throughout the film, “What would Gwen do?”

Click on the link below to view the film.

Operation Moffat

About the Author

Ash Routen

Ash Routen

Ash is an outdoor and adventure writer with a PhD in Exercise Science. He lives in the UK and has also written for Rock and Ice, Outside, UK Climbing etc. He recently led a 634km foot crossing of a frozen Lake Baikal in Siberia. See more at www.ashrouten.com.

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