At a special High Sheriff event in Tullie House Museum on Saturday evening, local climbing legend, Doug Scott kept his audience spellbound with anecdotes from his long association with the sport of climbing.
In a relaxed interview with fellow climber Jim Fotheringham (husband of High Sheriff, Marcia Reid Fotheringham), Doug reminisced on his 66-year-long love affair with mountains, from tackling Montblanc aged eighteen along with a friend (but no map), through an early expedition to the Tibesti range in Chad using a road map of North Africa, to his legendary descent of The Ogre with both legs broken.
A member of the first British team to scale the SW face of Everest in 1975, Doug’s expeditions across the world’s mountain ranges have earned him a revered place in British climbing history. His achievements have been recognised with a CBE, the John Muir Lifetime Achievement Award in March 2006, and The Royal Geographic Society Patron’s Gold Medal, although he did confide that his very first honour was winning a Bonny Baby competition, securing the princely sum of 7/6d for his parents!
Doug’s strong views on the ethics surrounding 21st century climbing were discussed. The audience heard of his dismay at the installation of bolts on previously climbed routes, expedition-style sieging and the commercialisation of climbing, with the sheer numbers and resultant queues on Everest destroying the unique experience that climbers were seeking.
Doug’s long association with Nepal has led to him setting up his charity Community Action Nepal. He explained that the mountain people of Nepal are among the poorest on the planet. With limited transport infrastructure and the Nepalese government historically focused- on fighting a civil war, their communities were increasingly neglected. Doug’s charity is dedicated to “helping mountain people to help themselves” raising their standard of living and strengthening indigenous, community-based culture. To this end, the charity has delivered over 45 projects ranging from healthcare posts and schools to porter rescue centres and other community and welfare projects.
The event ended with an auction of spectacular prints portraying many of Doug’s climbing feats and signed by the climbers involved, with all proceeds going to CAN. Money raised from tickets sales for the event will be shared between CAN and Cumbria Community Foundation, the High Sheriff’s chosen charity for her year in office.