Climbing legend Doug Scott is dead

Doug Scott
Doug Scott (1941-2020)

The Briton was already a legend of mountaineering in the Himalayas and Karakorum during his lifetime. Today Doug Scott has died at the age of 79 years. He passed away peacefully this morning, at his home with his family around him, informed the aid organization “Community Action Nepal” (CAN), which Scott founded 30 years ago.

The sad news came as no surprise. In August it had become known that Doug was terminally ill with brain cancer and that he, weakened by the disease, was been staying only on the ground floor of his house in the Lake District of Cumbria County. He had an inoperable cerebral lymphoma.

Through the Everest Southwest Face

Everest Southwest Face

Doug was one of the best climbers in the world in the 1970s and 80s. He participated in 45 expeditions  and succeeded in more than 20 first ascents in the Himalayas and Karakoram. Some of them are milestones of alpinism. In 1975, for example, he first climbed the extremely difficult Southwest Face of Mount Everest together with his compatriot Dougal Haston. Previously, five expeditions had failed on the more than 2,000-meter high wall. Even after 1975, only about 30 other mountaineers succeeded in climbing the Southwest Face.

Scott and Haston reached the highest point on 24 September 1975. After their summit success they survived a bivouac at 8,760 meters. “We found the easiest way, a kind of ‘serpentining’ our way up the mountain. It was the only line possible, the natural line”, Doug told me a few years ago. He and Haston had been using breathing masks. “When I bivouacked at 8,700 meters without oxygen, I knew, it would have been possible without it”, Scott said.

In 1979 Doug scaled Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain on earth, with Joe Tasker and Peter Boardman in alpine style – via a new route through the Northwest Face and the North Ridge. In 1983 Scott, together with Roger Baxter-Jones and Alex Macintyre, mastered the South Face of the eight-thousander Shishapangma for the first time.

Drama on Ogre with a happy ending

Doug Scott and Chris Bonington
Doug Scott (r.) and Chris Bonington (in April 2015)

His first ascent of the 7,285-meter-high Ogre I (also known as Baintha Brakk) in the Karakoram – achieved on 13 July 1977 along with his friend and frequent climbing partner Chris Bonington – was also legendary. The descent became a drama with a happy end: Scott broke both ankles, Bonington two ribs. Nevertheless, both of them, supported by the other team members, reached the base camp one week after their summit success. It was one of the great survival stories on the highest mountains in the world.  

R.I.P.

Like Sir Chris Bonington, Doug Scott was also ennobled for his services to mountaineering: in 1994 he was awarded the title “Commander of the Order of the British Empire”, the third highest order in Great Britain. For his lifetime achievement in the mountains, Scott was also awarded the Piolet d’Or, the “Oscar of Climbers”, in 1991.

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