What: Doug Scott lecture
When: Wednesday at 8 p.m.
Where: Neptune Mountaineering
More info: neptunemountaineering.com/
D oug Scott, who climbed Mount Everest in 1975 as part of the first British ascent and has reached the highest peaks on all seven continents, will speak in Boulder at Neptune Mountaineering Wednesday night.
Scott, now 71, will describe several of his most memorable climbs, including descending from Baintha Brakk or “The Ogre” in Pakistan with two broken legs.
Were you worried you wouldn’t make it down from “The Ogre” with both of your legs broken near the ankles?
Actually no, I never thought I wouldn’t get down but I did wonder how. It did occur to me that there would be new rules for winning because I’d actually broken both legs. In the back of it all was this sense of exhilaration, ‘How am I going to do this?’
How do you feel about the risks associated with making these high-altitude, dangerous climbs?
There was an occasion on K2 in 1978 where I was in a big avalanche. I was just across the base and then the whole lot of snow behind me avalanched. This was up at about 22,000 feet. As I came down, there was no fear, of course, when this all was happening. There’s no fear. Suddenly it’s curiosity, thoughts go through your mind. In my case I thought, ‘I’m going through my first avalanche, oh this will be interesting.’ I kept telling myself I’m not that worried about dying, but obviously I am very pleased that I have kept surviving. I know a lot of very good friends who have not made it, and that is a real sadness. There’s not a lot we can do about it. In some strange way it’s all written beforehand.
In your opinion, why is climbing so addictive?
I personally became very obsessive. For 25 years, twice a year (I went) to the Himalayas and somewhere else in between. What I did to compensate was take my family with me every second or third trip to base camp. Your spirits just lift just being there. Just going off for ten days or two weeks from base camp as a self-contained unit — it’s a wonderful feeling in some ways. You have to be totally focused up there when you really go for it, when storms come and go, you’ve got to be right there in the moment. It has the effect of slowing down the external dialogue. You do come back at peace with yourself and fulfilled. You do feel more put-together afterwards.
You’ve made most of your high-altitude climbs without bottled oxygen. Why?
I did use oxygen on Everest on the Southwest Face in the 1970s, but then on the last trip we didn’t get to the summit until 6 p.m. and didn’t leave until 7 p.m. We spent nine hours in a snow cave without sleeping bags and without oxygen and we survived without frostbite. That did change my direction. From then on, I basically was able to go off in a much more lightweight style. The other reason we didn’t take it was the cost. We were doing so many trips you had to keep the costs down. I have no ethical reason for not using oxygen. I don’t see any harm in it. It’s just the cost and the fact that it’s counterproductive carrying the heavy bottles.
What advice do you give young or new climbers?
Step by step is the best way. I wouldn’t bother forking out $55,000 to climb Everest. The best thing is to become a climber and then think about going out with your friends, perhaps looking out for a different, rarely visited route. It will all be a lot more enjoyable that way.
–Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.