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A tribute to Martin Moran

It appears that a great climber, mountain guide and expedition leader has been taken from us. Martin Moran remains missing on Nanda Devi, and whilst hope springs eternal for a favourable outcome, I am seeing the beginnings of obituaries being published.

I first secured Martin’s services as a guide in May 2014 to assist me on some of the more spectacular routes on the Munros I am climbing. From the very first trip to Skye to climb several of the Black Cuillin, I think it fair to say Martin and I hit it off.

His deep, broad expertise, calmness and straightforward instruction matched my desire to stretch myself on scrambling routes of which to that point, I had been distinctly wary of. On that trip, I climbed six of the Cuillin Munros and never missed a beat, despite some heart-stopping (for me) moments on peaks and features like the Inaccessible Pinnacle, Collie’s Ledge, Sgurr Thearlaich and several more.

That trip began a guiding relationship that took me over ever more exciting and testing ground as Martin not only guided me to the places I wanted to go, but also developed and stretched my scrambling and more general mountaineering skills.

There followed more trips: Skye to finish the Cuillin Munros and their Tops with a fabulous day on Am Basteir, the Basteir Tooth and Sgurr nan Gilliean (featuring a particularly poor piece of abseiling by me, which drew a hearty laugh from Martin); a full winter traverse of the mighty An Teallach’s two Munros and seven Munro Tops, taking fully eleven hours; a brief return to Skye to bag the only non-Cuillin Munro, Bla Bheinn via the exciting and lengthy Clach Glas traverse scramble, on a day of truly filthy weather; a quick raid on Liathac to bag the acknowledged hardest mainland Top, the Northern Pinnacles, where I felt as if I was finally ‘coming of age’ in my scrambling under Martin’s tutelage; Ben Nevis via the Ledge Route, which two years before I would have avoided at all costs yet by then, I loved every single minute of the scramble; the very next day into Glen Coe for the iconic ridge of Aonach Eagach, the UK mainland’s finest ridge scramble, which I looked at the day after from the Mamores and counted 24 separate pinnacles we’d crossed; and then finally, just before my Mountain Leader assessment, a winter traverse of the exceptional and remote Beinn Eighe, in Torridon in January 2018 – one he’d mentioned to me often for a winter expedition. We shared a full twelve hours on a snow covered massif, with Martin and I sharing trail breaking duties in deep snow, though it must be said, he did the lion’s share! We started the day in the dark and descended as night fell. Head torches on for the long walk out to the glen, then a yomp back to his van and thence to his climbing lodge in Lochcarron, for a hearty meal produced by his wife, Joy. He was guiding a party of six novices the next day, assisted by his son. He rarely stopped for breath.

I passed my Mountain Leader Assessment shortly after that trip, in good part due to the fabulous teachings of Martin (and before him Pete MacPherson, Martin’s long term climbing partner on some of the hardest Scottish winter routes) and the huge boost in my confidence our work together had provided.

His calm assurance, clear direction, unwavering confidence that I could do what he was asking me too, will stay with me forever, whether I’m leading a client or enjoying a day of my own on the hill.

And now he’s gone. On the day I saw the first inklings of trouble on Nanda Devi via social media, having seen his posts of the expedition previously, I’d thought that morning, “I really must have another day out with Martin”, as my Munro quest comes towards a conclusion. Too late now. Farewell Martin and thanks for guiding me on higher ground.

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Steve Lorraine