The international mountaineering scene is shocked. Doug Scott, the living legend of climbing in the Himalayas and the Karakoram, is terminally ill with brain cancer. The 79-year-old Englishman has an inoperable cerebral lymphoma, the “Sunday Times” reported this weekend, referring to Scott’s wife Patricia. Doug received the diagnosis on the first day of the corona lockdown in Great Britain in mid-March, according to the Times. Since then, he has been staying on the ground floor of his house in the Lake District of Cumbria County.
“Everest Challenge 2020”
Although seriously ill, Scott tormented himself up the stairs of his house last week – in the same down suit in which he had first climbed the extremely difficult Southwest Face of Mount Everest with Dougal Haston in 1975. The stair climb was “hellish”, Doug said afterwards. He did it for the “Everest Challenge 2020“, a fundraising campaign by “Community Action Nepal” (CAN), the aid organization he had founded 30 years ago.
The idea is for as many people as possible to climb their stairs 20 times each, post a picture of it on social media, encourage others to do the same – and most importantly, donate money. The money is intended to benefit the poor mountain population of Nepal, which was hit particularly hard by the corona crisis. Other members of the pioneering expedition 45 years ago also took part in the “Everest Challenge 2020”, such as the former expedition leader Sir Chris Bonington, who is now 86 years old, and the meanwhile 74-year-old Pertemba Sherpa, at that time the Sirdar, the head of the Sherpas in the team.
Bivouac at 8,760 meters
The first ascent of Everest Southwest Face, at that time one of the “last big problems” of alpinism, is considered a milestone in Himalayan climbing. 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.
Doug Scott succeeded in more than 20 first ascents in the Himalayas and the Karakoram. 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 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 – one of the great survival stories on the highest mountains in the world.
Drama on Ogre with a happy ending
But even Doug’s life doesn’t last forever. My thoughts are with him. I believe we can give him great pleasure if as many people as possible take part in his “Everest Challenge 2020” relief campaign. So, up the stairs!