Robynne Eller reviews Doug Scott’s shiny new show.

On 15th October, Oliver Metherell of Super 7 introduced Doug Scott to the audience at The Boyd Orr lecture theatre in Glasgow.

Surviving at altitude on Himalayan Summits most certainly requires an ample dose of humor, even if surviving the worlds highest biviouac means having an in-depth conversation with your feet. Doug Scott is one of the few people who can say he has been there, and more than just a few times. With a stellar alpine career that spans over forty years, he is one of the national treasures of the British climbing scene.

His latest lecture, ‘The Big Three” takes us back to the of Autumn of 1972. Doug and his team make their first attempt at climbing the un-forgiving and un-climbed South
West face of Mt. Everest. After two attempts, various route changes and extreme weather conditions, it all proves too much for the team. They turn back after reaching 8230m and with the loss of one member; Tony Tighe’s body was never recovered.

It is obvious that in the 27 years since the first attempt was made, Doug has told his story of ‘The Big Three’ hundreds of times. Yet, his tale does not sound over rehearsed and tired. It sounds like he is talking fondly of old friends that he knows he will never meet again. Although Doug has lost many close friends and team members during these historic adventures, he has cherished their memories by keeping his stories alive.

Then Doug moves the show to Chris Bonington’s ‘Everest: The Hard Way’ expedition and Doug Scott and Dougal Haston are standing on the summit. It is Doug’s third attempt at the south-west face and after losing fellow team mates and facing gruelling conditions, they finally make it to the top. On the epic descent, the team run out of oxygen and with their sleeping bags in camp far below, they are forced to make the world’s highest bivouac, resting precariously on their rucksacks only a hundred meters below the summit. Minimalism proves to become a bit of a theme in expeditions to come…

When Doug flicks through the series of spell bounding photographs that bring his adventures to life, it feels like he is looking back through a collection of treasured holiday snaps; from the best vacation in the world. I don’t think there was one person in the auditorium that didn’t sense that Doug wished he could step through the photos on the screen and feel the crunch of virgin snow beneath his ice boots once more. When talking about these precious moments in his life, he would shortly pause and give himself a moment and he was there at the top of Everest, having his picture taken for his Mum’s family album.

Doug then transports us to 1979. He and two other team mates, Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker are about to embark on the worlds third highest peak, Kanchenjunga. After the siege tactics of the 1975 trip, the team chose to climb ‘Alpine Style’. A technical route, no oxygen, and without an army of porters and supporting climbers to to haul their supplies up the mountain. After two and a half months of mind-bending challenges, the team finally summit.

When Doug visited Nepal, he was horrified by the exploitation of Sherpas who worked in the mountains. Most Sherpas were paid badly and were lifting un-godly amounts of weight. . As a result, Doug set up Community Action Nepal (Canepal), a charitable organisation which helps to ensure that Sherpas are paid fairly and can keep their families and communities thriving.

Lastly, we are taken to 1983. This is Doug and his team’s second shot at conquering K2. After losing a team mate to an avalanche five years previously, Doug is ready to try again for the world’s second highest peak. Mother nature strikes again and after ferocious snow storms and a rescue mission to save one of their team mates from cerebral edema, they are robbed once more of the summit.

It is hard to walk away from a Doug Scott lecture without feeling inspired by his tales of the three peaks. Even though his hair is now white and he seems less able to scale Everest again, I would certainly not describe Doug as a frail old man. He is still adventure hungry as ever who attracts and intrigues all types of climbers . I wish I had one of those summit pictures in my living room until I can get a little closer.

Follow Doug’s lectures at:
Community Action Nepal:

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