Martin Moran 1955-2019

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Trek & Mountain’s Will Harris remembers his former boss who died in the Indian Himalaya in June…

The deaths of Martin Moran and seven other members of his team on Nanda Devi East at the beginning of June this year deeply saddened Britain’s close-knit guiding and mountaineering community. Coming at a time when deaths on Everest and other big, commercial peaks were making the headlines, the differences between what was seen elsewhere in the Himalaya and the tragic events in a secluded corner of northern India could not be clearer. No fixed ropes or queues in sight, Martin’s team were engaged in the type of adventurous, exploratory mountaineering that he had built a reputation for over three decades as a mountain guide and climber.

I first met Martin when I went to work for him guiding winter climbing around his base in Loch Carron, North-West Scotland. Like generations of trainee guides before me, I went to work for and learn from a man whose reputation for getting the most out of both clients and conditions was the stuff of legend. A week working for Moran Mountain didn’t involve being out after a leisurely breakfast and home for late afternoon tea and cakes, but instead dawn-till-dusk adventures making the most of the big mountaineering challenges found on Martin’s home patch, from the Cuillin of Skye to the grand sandstone hills of Torridon and Applecross. This same spirit had previously gained Moran Mountain a loyal following in the Alps, and continues to attract clients for trips to Norway and India.

Martin’s enthusiasm for all things climbing went far beyond his work as a guide. A winter round of Scotland’s Munros, along with a book detailing his exploits, established his credentials amongst hillwalkers, and his human-powered enchainment of the alpine 4000m peaks, the first of its kind, was strong evidence of his drive to be in the mountains. It was his desire for exploration which gave the biggest rewards, with hard new winter routes such as ‘The Godfather’, ‘Hung, Drawn and Quartered’ and ‘Blood, Sweat and Frozen Tears’ standing testament to his vision and ability. Further afield, he was an acknowledged authority on the mountains of Northern India, leading exploratory climbing trips to the area for both work and pleasure, and making notable first ascents along the way.

A true lifer, Martin continued to climb at a high standard into his sixties, establishing new Scottish winter routes on out-of-the-way crags up to Scottish Grade VIII in the months before his death. I had the good fortune to climb with him on the cliffs on Ben Nevis last summer, where he drew smiles by commenting that he relied on younger partners to drag him along to climb in these places. Nothing could be further from the truth; his continued enthusiasm was perfectly illustrated by his strong recommendation that we climb late into the evening to tick off a second big multi-pitch route, regardless of work early the next morning.

As in all walks of life, it is not ability or drive but character that sets someone out as a good companion in the mountains. Martin’s wry smile, dry humour, kindness and encouragement will be missed by friends, colleagues, climbing partners and clients alike.

Martin Moran is survived by his wife Joy, and two adult children, Alex and Hazel. They plan to continue to run Moran Mountain as a family business.

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