Doug Scott, Part of First Team to Summit Everest by Southwest Face, Dies at 79

In recent decades, Mr. Scott directed and raised funds for Community Action Nepal, a charity he founded to improve the lives of people in Nepal.

LONDON — Doug Scott, a British mountaineer who was part of the first team to summit Mount Everest via its southwest face and later founded a charity to raise money for schools, health centers and clean water for people in Nepal, died at his home in Cumbria, England, on Monday. He was 79.

The cause was cerebral lymphoma, according to a statement from his charity, Community Action Nepal.

The first summit of Mount Everest was in 1953, via the mountain’s southeast ridge and the South Col route. But no one had scaled the 29,031.7-foot summit via the southwest face, one of the most technically challenging approaches, until a September 1975 expedition by an 18-man British team, led by Chris Bonington.

Mr. Bonington, one of the best-known mountaineers in Britain, said he chose Mr. Scott, 33 at the time, and Dougal Haston, who was 32, to be the first two climbers of the group to head to the summit because of their endurance, ambition and ability to make quick decisions under pressure — a skill they ended up needing.

When the two men reached Everest’s summit, they did not say much to each other, other than to point out distant mountains and watch one of the most beautiful sunsets he had ever seen, Mr. Scott recalled in his book “Up and About: The Hard Road to Everest.”

After about an hour at the summit, Mr. Scott and Mr. Haston started their descent. Barely 300 feet from the peak, however, their headlamps failed and the wind was blowing snow in their tracks. Even though they were without sleeping bags to protect them from the cold, they dug a snowbank and sat on their backpacks for about nine hours, waiting for the sun to rise.

“Since no one had spent a night out this high without oxygen, we were not certain as to what would actually happen,” Mr. Scott wrote in his book, describing how he tucked his toes into Mr. Haston’s armpit to keep them warm. “We were pleasantly surprised to survive without oxygen, sleeping bags, or, as it turned out, suffering any frostbite.”

Born on May 29, 1941, in Nottingham, England, Mr. Scott, whose father was a boxing champion and mother a supervisor at a cigarette factory, began climbing as a schoolboy. He spent two years at Loughborough University, where he studied geography and physical education. He worked as a teacher in Nottingham in the 1960s and 1970s, while spending as much time climbing mountains as he could, exploring England’s Peak District, Scotland, the Alps and, ultimately, the Himalayas.

Doug Scott, Part of First Team to Summit Everest by Southwest Face, Dies at 79

Doug Scott at Heathrow Airport, returning to London from his successful Everest expedition, on Oct. 17, 1975.Credit…Press Association/Associated Press

Mr. Scott reached the peaks of the tallest mountains on each of the seven continents. He made 45 expeditions to the high mountains of Asia, including a mountain named Baintha Brakk, or the Ogre, in Pakistan, where Mr. Scott broke both legs while abseiling from the summit.

Mr. Bonington, who was with Mr. Scott and had smashed his ribs during the descent, said in an interview that he did not think anyone, except for Mr. Scott, would have had the physical and mental strength to get down with two broken legs.

“In that process, not only did he never complain, but more important, he was still an important, dynamic part, if you like, of our little team and the very difficult decisions we had to take on the way down,” Mr. Bonington said.

Well into his later years, and even as his cancer progressed, Mr. Scott kept climbing. Over the summer, even while weakened from rounds of chemotherapy, he climbed the staircase in his house 12 times, wearing the same blue suit he wore when he reached the summit of Everest as part of a challenge to raise funds for medicine, equipment and masks for Nepal’s coronavirus effort.

“He was making a difference even at the height of his illness,” said Jon Maguire, a Community Action Nepal trustee. Mr. Maguire said Mr. Scott founded the charity after seeing how many porters in Nepal lived in poverty.

The British Embassy in Nepal said on Twitter that Mr. Scott would be remembered “not only for his mountaineering feats but as a true friend of #Nepal whose support helped build health posts in rural villages.”

Mr. Scott founded Community Action Nepal to support schools, heath centers and other community projects in Nepal, one of Asia’s poorest nations and the site of most Everest climbs.

His survivors include his third wife, Trish, whom he married in 2007; three children, Michael, Martha and Rosie, from his first marriage; two sons, Arran and Euan, from his second marriage; and several grandchildren, nephews and nieces, who also took part in the staircase climbing challenge for Nepal during the coronavirus lockdown in Britain.

Mr. Bonington and Mr. Scott continued to climb together for decades. “Some people who are very, very good at the activity they do, and then they get to the point where they get a little bit older, so they can no longer be the best in their field, and they do something else,” Mr. Bonington said.

“But if you love climbing for the process of climbing, you couldn’t deva whether you’re the best or not,” he said. “You’re doing it because of a love of mountains themselves and the process of climbing. And that certainly was Doug.”

Source: The New York Times

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