Goodbye Doug Scott
British mountaineer Doug Scott passed away today. Aged 79, he was recognised as one of the greatest mountaineers of all times.
It’s a sad day for mountaineering. Doug Scott was both an absolute climbing legend and an undisputed reference point for all those who love the mountains and climbing. He will be sorely missed not only for his class but also and above all for his qualities and depth. Born on 29 May 79 years ago in Nottingham, England, he passed away on 7 December 2020 as a result of a terrible illness.
Scott began climbing as a youngster, aged just 12 years old. And it was love at first sight. After those early days he never stopped climbing, becoming one of the foremost proponents of alpine style and of great climbs on the highest mountains and biggest faces in the world. His first ascent of the SW Face of Everest, in 1975 together with Dougal Haston and expedition leader Chris Bonington, included an incredible bivy immediately beneath the summit and achieved legendary status. So much so that it marked an significant change in Himalayan mountaineering.
In 1977 Scott carried out the unforgettable first ascent of Baintha Brakk (7285m), also know as the famous and terrible Ogre, during which together with Chris Bonington he endured one of mountaineering's most extraordinary epics. After an incredible ascent all the way to the summit, Scott broke both his legs at the first abseil. And as if this didn't suffice, Bonington broke his ribs and suffered from pneumonia. All of this in the midst of a terrible storm... What ensued was an incredible fight for survival. Seven days later they crawled into Base Camp, on all fours. But somehow they had got there, thanks to an undertaking that broke all previous dimensions. More was still to come.
Scott’s noteworthy ascents continued and were crowned by the splendid first ascent, via one of the most beautiful routes of all, up the East Pillar of Shivling (6543m Indian Garhwal) in 1981 together with Rick White, Georges Bettembourg and Greg Child. Two years earlier Scott had forged a new route up Kangchenjunga 8586m together with Joe Tasker and Pete Boardman, while his new route on Shisha Pangma climbed with Alex McIntyre and Roger Baxter-Jones was ascended in 1982.
But apart from these great climbs (more than 45 new routes from Mont Blanc to Alaska, via the Himalaya and Karakorum), what is striking about Doug Scott's alpinism is its style. An "alpine style", naturally. Always carried out "by fair means", man versus the mountains on honest terms, which is the hallmark of mountaineering’s all-time greats and of authentic British mountaineering.
It comes as no surprise therefore that Scott climbed with the greatest British mountaineers (true "monsters") of his era. And it comes as no surprise that he was President of the British Alpine Club, and that he was actively engaged in helping the Nepalese people with Community Action Trek Ltd. Furthermore, Scott was awarded the Royal Geographical Society Patron's Gold Medal, as well as being assigned Commander of British Empire. While in 2011 at Courmayeur he received the Piolet d'Or Lifetime Achievement Award.
Doug Scott accompanied us throughout the decades. That 70’s photo of him with long hair, unkempt beard and round glasses (he taught geography) will always stay with us. In that photo he has an intense, dreamy look, like that of a visionary. It’s the same look and dream we all wish we had. The gaze of a great mountaineer and a true gentleman. A shining example!