Doug Scott, 1941-2020

We have just received the sad news that Doug Scott has passed away aged 79.

Doug was one of our most long-standing Trustees, a legend of British mountaineering and rock climbing, and a tireless fundraiser for Community Action Nepal.

Born in Nottingham, Doug began climbing aged 12 and spent his formative years climbing in Derbyshire. Climbing in Wales, Scotland and the Alps followed, before travels further afield – in 1965 Doug organised his first expedition, to the Tibesti Mountains in Chad, where he made two first ascents with Ray Gillies and Clive Davies.

The late 1960s and early 70s saw Doug continue to rock climb with new routes on rock in the Outer Hebrides and Anglesey, and the first British ascent of Salathe Wall, El Capitan (Yosemite National Park) with Peter Habeler.

The 1970s and 80s saw Doug participate in some incredibly ambitious mountaineering challenges, with expeditions not only to some of the world’s highest mountains, but often attempting them in fast, lightweight style (without supplementary oxygen) by ever more technically challenging and physically demanding routes.

Some of these routes went down in history for their success, such as the first British ascent of Everest in 1975 (with Dougal Haston on a Chris Bonington-led expedition; Doug and Dougal Haston also made history on the same expedition by surviving an overnight bivouac not far below the summit).Then there was the first lightweight ascent of Kangchenjunga in 1979 (with Joe Tasker and Pete Boardman), and the first ascent of the East Pillar of Shivling in 1981 (with Rick White, Greg Child and Georges Bettembourg).

Doug Scott (in tent) with Sherpas, 1979 Kangchenjunga expedition

Others sadly became notable for the loss of fellow climbers, such as the 1978 K2 expedition which saw the death of Nick Estcourt during an avalanche, and the 1975 Everest expedition on which Mick Burke lost his life – Doug was part of a generation of mountaineers who pushed the limits of human ability in incredibly challenging environments.

Other expeditions became stories of survival against the odds – most famously, Doug’s descent from The Ogre/Baintha Brakk in 1977 with two broken legs which became the subject of his popular lecture “A Crawl Down the Ogre”.

Throughout this frenetic period of major mountaineering expeditions, Doug maintained his love of rock climbing with new routes and climbing with friends throughout the 1980s, 1990s and into the 2000s. This short article cannot list the many climbing and mountaineering achievements Doug made – you can find a detailed list here.

As well as pushing the boundaries of what was possible in mountaineering and rock climbing, Doug also regularly contributed to the mountaineering and climbing community; serving terms as President of the Alpine Climbing Group, Vice-President of the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) and President of the Alpine Club. In 2015 Doug became a Patron of the BMC and has served as a Trustee for the Mountain Heritage Trust for more than ten years.

Doug also understood that his responsibility as a climber extended beyond his own national borders. In the 1990s Doug founded Community Action Nepal (CAN), a charity which sprang from an initial 1989 request to help improve labour conditions in the Himalayan trekking industry and which was to become a huge part of Doug’s life. Since that first request, CAN has helped Nepalese communities to develop health posts, schools, porter rescue shelters, and numerous community buildings, as well as offering support to rebuild following the devastation of the 2015 earthquake.

Doug was awarded a CBE in 1994, a John Muir Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 and a Piolet d'Or Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.

For many years, Doug delivered a lecture tour around the British Isles, fundraising for CAN and sharing stories with friends old and new. They were fixtures on the mountaineering winter calendar for decades, and no one expected Doug’s 2019 lecture tour to be his last. He will be sadly missed by family, friends and climbers around the world.

Photograph by Ian Smith, photographer and fellow Trustee of the Mountain Heritage Trust - this was Doug's lecture tour publicity photograph for a number of years.

Cover image: Copyright Ian Smith.

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