The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) is pleased to announce that two of the leading lights of British climbing history, Gwen Moffat and Angela Soper, have been made honorary members of the BMC.
The honouring of Gwen and Angela is one of the first results of the new BMC Women’s Think Tank, which had its initial meeting in Sheffield on 2 December.
The idea for the Think Tank was conceived by BMC vice president Mina Leslie-Wujastyk and BMC chief executive officer Dave Turnbull. Comprised of BMC volunteers, employees, female climbers and members of the outdoor industry, it aims to inspire women to walk, climb and remain engaged with the rock and mountains for their lifetime.
Dave Turnbull said: “It’s great to see Gwen and Angela as the first women to become honorary members of the BMC. They are joining a distinguished line-up including the likes of Eric Jones, Henry Folkard and Ken Wilson.”
Angela Soper began climbing in 1963. From her beginnings in properly old school trad climbing, she worked her way through British crags and grades with highlights such as Right Wall (E5 6a) and The Old Man of Hoy, diversifying enough to win her first bouldering competition aged 50 at a Huddersfield wall.
Elected president of the women-only Pinnacle Club in 1981, Angela organised the infamous Women’s International Meet in 1984, which saw Jill Lawrence become the first British woman to climb E5 with her ascent of Right Wall. The effects of the Meet galvanised a whole generation of female climbers and the waves of psyche have surely gone on to influence the Women’s Climbing Symposium, which Angela headlined in 2013. Angela acted as BMC vice president from 1990-93.
Gwen Moffat started climbing at 21 when she met a rock climber whilst stationed at a suburban ATS station during the Second World War. After a mini adventure in Wales, she soon deserted the army for a life of climbing. After an existence purely dictated by the conditions and her discovery of new crags throughout the UK, Gwen decided she could make a living from climbing.
Alongside a fruitful mountain writing career, in 1956 Gwen became the first female British mountain guide. She wrote her renowned climbing autobiography Space Below my Feet in 1961. She was a very committed member of the Mountain Rescue, writing the non-fiction book Two Star Red about her experiences in its service.
This year Gwen starred in the BMC TV production ‘Operation Moffat’, which collected the Special Jury Mention at Banff Mountain Festival and Best Climbing Film and People’s Choice award at Kendal Mountain Festival.
Alex Messenger of BMC TV, said: “Good films have memorable action; the best films have memorable characters. And when it comes to characters, they don’t come any more inspirational than Gwen Moffat. Directors Jen Randall and Claire Carter have created something very special, which we look forward to sharing with all our members on BMC TV on Boxing Day.”
Ever humble and limelight shy, Gwen maintains that she was surprised to learn that she had been made an honorary member. Although her association with the BMC goes back to 1953 and her first guides certificates, apart from some regional committee work she feels has done nothing to deserve such a tribute. Since the success of the BMC TV film, Gwen’s book Space Below my Feet has been commissioned for a reprint. Pre-order your copy at the BMC shop and go wild this January. #whatwouldgwendo
Current president of the Pinnacle Club, Hillary Lawrence, told us: “Gwen and Angela joined the Pinnacle Club in 1949 and 1967 respectively and were both made honorary members in recognition of their contribution to the club and for inspiring women climbers for many years. Angela is still a regular on meets – last seen a week ago making light work of the steepest overhanging section of Leeds Wall.”