Weekend Warm-Up: Interview with Doug Scott

Doug Scott’s legendary resumé began in the fells of the Peak District. Soon he was pioneering early big-wall climbing in remote locations from Baffin Island to Chad. Later, he notched historic firsts in the Himalaya and the Karakorum. In 2011, he became just the third-ever winner of the lifetime achievement award at the Piolet d’Or.

In 2013, he sat down to discuss his storied career on video. Clocking in at just under 12 minutes, the interview nevertheless ranges widely. Scott discusses his illogical love of big-wall overhangs — “I could never rationalize the exposure” — his famous first ascent of Everest’s South West Face with Dougal Haston, and his “most demanding climb,” a brutal alpine-style ascent of Kanchenjunga in 1979.

Among all these rich stories, it is perhaps his move away from siege-style expeditions that resonates most. As the mountaineering world continues to pivot towards super-lightweight climbs, he explains his own regrets about using fixed lines and bottled oxygen on Everest:

“There’s no real commitment [with fixed ropes]. You haven’t really left the ground, you’re still connected to the ground, you’ve sort of brought the ground up with you.”

Scott has thought deeply about his career, and the why of climbing pops up repeatedly. Is it ego? Would he have done the same things if he was the last man on earth? Why does he climb? He closes the interview with the only answer he’s been able to think of: “I get grumpy when I don’t.”

Martin Walsh is a freelance writer and wildlife photographer based in Da Lat, Vietnam. A history graduate from the University of Nottingham, Martin's career arc is something of a smörgåsbord. A largely unsuccessful basketball coach in Zimbabwe and the Indian Himalaya, a reluctant business lobbyist in London, and an interior design project manager in Saigon. He has been fortunate enough to see some of the world. Highlights include tracking tigers on foot in Nepal, white-water rafting the Nile, bumbling his way from London to Istanbul on a bicycle, feeding wild hyenas with his face in Ethiopia, and accidentally interviewing Hezbollah in Lebanon. His areas of expertise include adventure travel, hiking, wildlife, and half-forgotten early 2000s indie-rock bands.

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Eddy De Wilde
Eddy De Wilde
2 years ago

Thanks for pointing out this interview. Scott is remarkably soft spoken and understated considering his achievements.