Heads Full of Lightning
A Look at Some Bright Ideas Lit by Sun Valley’s Young People
Photography: Mark Oliver
(page 5 of 6)
The World as an Office
Gerry Moffatt, Freelance Adventurer
When he was 11, Gerry Moffatt saw a movie that would change his life—a 1976 documentary about the descent of the river Dodhu, one of Nepal’s 14 Himalayan River drainages.
Twenty years later, Moffatt would descend the Dodhu, and the remaining 13 rivers, making him the first man ever to descend every major Himalayan river drainage. His first, in 1983, was the River Buri Ghandaki.
In between, Moffatt, now 44, has lived the kind of life that most only read about.
After making his first expedition at 18, the native Scotsman began exploring the Himalayan ranges, working at first for a revolutionary travel company known as Encounter Overland, before starting his own river exploration company in Nepal.
Working for Outdoor Encounters brought him face-to-face for six years with the elements—both natural and manmade—and he survived all the invasions, wars, hijackings and coups, as well as hungry lions, malaria and unpredictable weather that made the landscape.
Working that job “gives you an education you’ve never imagined,” Moffatt says, and that learn-ing augmented the success of his own business in Nepal until 9/11, which, beyond its first impact, brought to light the political chaos of developing countries. This, of course, had a direct impact on the number of trips amateur adventurers were willing to take, and many adventure companies folded, one by one.
“We all lost our shirts,” Moffatt says. So he went home to Idaho, where he’s lived since 1989, and figured out what to do next. He was lured to Idaho by the rivers, specifically the North Fork of the Payette, which he calls the “the ultimate training playground” for the more complex and dynamic expeditions he’ll lead elsewhere, but it’s the Wood River Valley and its people who keep him here.
Here he has used his knowledge and experience as springboards, and began enjoying more suc-cess as a filmmaker, producing documentaries with a couple of other Valley residents as part of Men’s Journal’s adventure team, and, camera in tow, began consulting in the field and with de-signers for companies like Eddie Bauer, which is launching an adventure line known as First Ascent this year.
In the meantime, he’s becoming more actively involved in a project that began eight years ago with the Kingdom of Bhutan, as the official whitewater rafting consultant.
Bhutan remains a remote and isolated country, says Moffatt, and, like so many other developing countries, has explored the idea of adventure tourism. But unlike many of those other countries, the Kingdom of Bhutan has explored the idea slowly with emphases on preserving and sustaining its unspoiled natural mountains, forests and rivers.
Moffatt’s job is to help build the infrastructure for such an economy, including descending and exploring and mapping the kingdom’s rivers, consulting with the crown on his findings and building from the ground up a rafting team made of members native to the kingdom.
Moffatt now splits a lot of time between working in Bhutan, and Ketchum. “I knew when I got (to Ketchum), that there was something very special about this community and this location.” >>>