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


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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.

Doug Scott, left, and Hamish MacInnes in an icefall on Mount Everest. Doug Scott, left, and Hamish MacInnes in an icefall on Mount Everest.Credit…PA Images, via Getty Images Jenny Gross

  • Published Dec. 8, 2020Updated Dec. 11, 2020

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

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

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

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 from 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 the 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” (2015).

After about an hour at the summit, he and Mr. Haston started their descent. Barely 300 feet from the peak, however, as night fell, their headlamps failed. Even though they were without sleeping bags to protect them from the cold, they dug into 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, describing how he had 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.”

Douglas Keith Scott was born on May 29, 1941, in Nottingham, England, and began climbing as a schoolboy. His father was a boxing champion, his mother a supervisor at a cigarette factory. Mr. Scott spent two years at Loughborough University, in the East Midlands, where he studied geography and physical education. He was a teacher in Nottingham in the 1960s and ’70s while spending as much time climbing mountains as he could, exploring England’s Peak District, Scotland, the Alps and ultimately the Himalayas.

ImageDoug Scott at Heathrow Airport, returning to London from his successful Everest expedition, on Oct. 17, 1975. 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 Baintha Brakk, or the Ogre, in Pakistan, where he broke both legs while rappelling from the summit.

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

“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 chemotherapy, he climbed the staircase in his house 12 times as part of a challenge to raise funds for medicine, equipment and masks for Nepal’s coronavirus effort. In doing so he wore the same blue suit he had worn when he reached Everest’s summit.

“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 had 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 in 1989 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 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 care less whether you’re the best climber in the world or not,” he added. “You’re doing it because of a love of mountains themselves and the process of climbing. And that certainly was Doug.”

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