Reviewer: Helen Jones
On the 24 September 1975, Doug Scott and his companion, climber Dougal Haston, reached the summit of Mount Everest. The first to do so up the difficult and dangerous South Face. To celebrate 40 years since that achievement, Doug Scott is on a lecture tour about that historical exploit.
Firstly he told a little of the history of attempts to scale the world’s highest mountain. Most previous attempts had been up the North Face of the Everest as that was approached from Tibet because Nepal had been closed to foreign climbers for most of the years from 1921 to 1969. Immediately after the Nepal side was opened, there were attempts made via the south side of the mountain.
Doug Scott had been involved in two previous attempts, both in 1972, when he was part of an European expedition and later in the year as part of a British expedition led by Chris Bonington. Both attempts failed. A Japanese expedition in 1973 failed by the South West face but did reach the summit by South Col.
Late in 1973, Chris Bonington was advised that a planned Canadian expedition had folded due to lack of funding, so he applied and was given the slot in the post-Monsoon season. Bonington was originally planning going up South Col but Haston and Doug Scott persuaded him to try the South West Face once more.
Doug Scott’s description of that ascent focuses on the practical rather than the aesthetic, but his photographs are stunning of the scenery around them and the sheer faces of rock and snow ahead of them. He describes how they reached the base camp and the realities of tiny camps up the mountainside, where tents seem perched at extreme angles on snowy slopes. The harshness of their surroundings, is often glossed over, but shows the effects the environment can have on not only the people, but their equipment and the loss of life of a team member is poignant.
Scott and Haston were the first to head for the summit, their decision to push on into the late afternoon to reach it and the resulting night having to bivouac close to the summit in a cave they had dug out them, making it even more dangerous. Three further members of the team also made the summit, unfortunately one, Mick Burke, never returned, becoming lost in the blizzard conditions on the mountain.
Doug Scott concluded his lecture by talking about the work he and his companions are doing through his charity Community Action Nepal, in bringing education and healthcare to the Nepalese people, as their way of repaying the help the Sherpas gave them on the expedition. Things were going well until the earthquake earlier this year leaving many of their building either collapsed or badly damaged.
While Doug Scott: Everest- The Hard Way may not be the most fascinating subject for a lecture, Doug Scott’s personable nature and insightful thoughts mean that the evening is an enjoyable one.
Reviewed on: 16 November 2015 | Photo: Dougal Haston