It has been a sad year in the mountaineering world. We’ve lost several greats: Joe Brown, Hamish MacInnes and now Doug Scott (May 29, 1941-December 7, 2020). Several years ago, I was given a copy of Doug Scott’s autobiography, Up and About. It’s a hefty tome, but a fascinating insight into the genesis of climbing culture in England.
One of the things that struck me most was the attitude. In a world where we obsess over doing things properly and getting the best kit, I was almost incredulous to read about teenage Scott cycling 20 miles to Lake District crags with his mum’s washing line as a rope.
After catching the climbing bug during a Scout trip to the Lake District, Doug Scott balanced climbing and alpinism alongside his job as a secondary school teacher. It certainly didn’t seem to slow him down. He and others would hitch hike to the Alps as the start of the holidays and hope to get back before the start of term!
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Doug Scott claimed several Himalayan first ascents and numerous more climbs across the world. His two most famous ascents – for their mountaineering prowess and sheer epicness – are Everest in 1975 and The Ogre in 1977. He and his partner Dougal Haston made a first ascent of the south west face of Everest (the “hard side”). They ran out of bottled oxygen and had to overnight at over 8700m in a snow cave. On The Ogre, Scott had to crawl down – with the help of teammates – after breaking both legs just above the ankles.
It’s impossible to write about Doug Scott and not mention his charity work. He set up Community Action Nepal (CAN) and continued to be actively involved with the aid organisation and its charity projects until his death. Earlier this year, upon receiving news of his inoperable brain cancer, he decided to make one final ascent of Everest – on his staircase – to raise funds for CAN. The Everest 2020 event raised over £45,000 and brought together climbers worldwide during lockdown.
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