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Author interview: Doug Scott, The Ogre

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The Ogre from Ho Bluk on the opposite (south side) of the Biafo Glacier. The ridge on the left skyline is the West Ridge above the West Col. Photo: Doug Scott.

From tomorrow, those of you who have pre-ordered Doug Scott's book, The Ogre, can look out for an early Christmas treat. The books have all be packaged and are set to land on doorsteps before the end of the week. Ahead of publication, we caught up with Doug to talk about his dramatic descent of the Karakoram mountain.

1. The book marks forty years since you climbed the Ogre, why did you decide to tell the story of what happened now? 

As part of writing Volume II I felt it was too long and thought some bits might have to be chopped out. As I am not a natural writer, having failed my English O level, there was a reluctance to lose those sections on The Ogre so it made sense to devote a whole book to the mountain. At the same time lots of new information was coming to light; Nick's diaries were released, my letters to Jan turned up, Clive Rowland's memoirs were available and on top of all that Mo Anthoine's film was found with the supporting cassette tapes. 

2. Was it a conscious decision to coincide with the forty-year anniversary?

Not really a conscious decision to coincide with the anniversary, merely fortuitous!

3. Was the descent of the Ogre your worst experience of climbing? 

Bizarrely, in some ways it was the best experience because of the interest in having to sort out this unique problem I found myself stuck with. 

4. Thinking back to the expedition, what would you have done differently to avoid the accident? 

Ah, the wisdom of hindsight is a wonderful thing and now I would have set off earlier in the day so as not to be in a rush to get off the mountain before dark. 

5. Did your success in reaching the summit cloud your judgement?

I've never become euphoric on a summit on account of it always being late in the day when you get there and in the back of one's mind is the pressure that one still has to get off. Certainly my judgement was not clouded by euphoria. After all reaching a summit is still only half way!

6. How long did it take you to prepare yourself mentally for your next mountain adventure?

No time at all as I was ready to climb Nuptse North Face with Tut and Dougal more or less straight away. However, with Dougal dying in an avalanche shortly afterwards and Tut and I only having one good leg between us we postponed Nuptse to the following year. At that time I sent a photo of myself in hospital, with two broken ankles, to the Nepalese Foreign Ministry asking him for permission to carry over the Nuptse climb but all I received was the response to "try in future to fulfil your obligations". 

7. In researching the book, you got access to new sources of information including Nick Estcourt’s diaries, Clive Rowland’s memoirs and film footage from the climb that Anthoine had made. How did it feel to revisit these records after four decades? 

Well, there was a huge feeling of warmth towards all of them; I got quite emotional reading Nick's diaries and the same reading Jan's letters - those had been written to one another throughout that expedition. It was also wonderful to hear Mo's voice, his Black Country tone with strong Brummie accent, on the tapes and it all helped see them in the round. 

5. Community Action Nepal was founded following this expedition. What inspired you to set it up? 

As a result of the Ogre and other expeditions to Pakistan [eight altogether] I was able to help the people of Askole with their water supply. The village had over fifty per cent child mortality where only half the children born got to the age of five due to enteritis and diarrhoea. This was a shocking statistic when they had a fresh spring only half a mile away. The publicity from the Ogre climb gave me a high enough profile to raise the funds necessary to sort out the water supply and this success gave me sufficient confidence to help out in Nepal when requests were made by the guys who helped us climb their mountains. 


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