We will never know if Doug Scott finished his book Kangchenjunga

May 24, 2021 3 min read

Doug Scott taking in the view just below the summit of Kangchenjunga

After writing the first volume of his autobiography Up and About, the idea was always to leave that book with Doug and Dougal on the summit of Everest and to then tell the rest of his story in volume two. But we ran in to some problems. You see Doug was a man of great strength and energy and there was really no end in sight. He was still climbing – famously arriving late to Ken Wilson’s memorial service due to getting himself stuck on a tricky mantelshelf move at Stanage. His work in Nepal took on a new importance after the earthquake and he’d got himself all worked up about the way various mountaineering institutions were run in the UK. His publisher rightly resisted the autobiography turning into a five-volume set. It was about this time that the audio cassettes recorded on the Ogre were discovered and suddenly Doug had a much greater perspective on what had gone on during that ascent and descent. The Ogre thus became his next book. Logical to him, and slightly annoyingly to his publisher, he started thinking about his ascent of Kangchenjunga again, and significantly got to read the private diaries of Joe Tasker to see the climb from another perspective. And so it was, we were going to publish a book about the third highest mountain in the world.

Doug went back to the beginning, the geology, ecology, mythology and anthropology of the mountain that was to become Kangchenjunga. He worked at this book for years – I’ve photos of him nestled in his writing hut, surrounded by piles of texts reaching 8,000 metres into the Cumbrian sky. Then, of course, we know what happened. Doug sent me his manuscript for safe keeping. There was a lot of history – certainly too much for most readers – and a rather curious end to the book. At the time I did wonder if there were perhaps more chapters to come, but Doug was so ill now that it seemed near impossible to retrieve them if they did exist. Then, sadly, on that grey, unremarkable December morning we lost Doug Scott.

I reread those final pages and of course it all made sense. Like Doug’s life, his book Kangchenjunga could never truly be finished, the summit never trod on. We’d left the book, we’d left Kanchenjunga and we’d left Doug not at the end, but at the endless.

If you do go to Kangchenjunga, a summit of eternally fresh snow and ice, that is where, nestled just below the summit, you’ll find the end of one chapter and the start of the next.

On to more mundane things. Doug finished his book, but a huge thanks must go to his PA, Ann, for typing up the handwritten manuscript; to Stephen Goodwin and Ed Douglas for editorial advice; to Trish Scott and the rest of Doug’s family for helping us get the book to print; to Chris Bonington for some emotional support and encouragement to publish. Then without Catherine Moorhead’s beyond-the-call-of-duty editing and indexing, we really wouldn’t have a book. Also the Alpine Club, Tony Smythe and Pete Boardman’s family for help with photography; and last but not least my team here at Vertebrate, for expertly bringing together all the elements that will go on to make one of the most important mountain books to be published.

Finally, thanks to my friend Doug Scott. When we took over Baton Wicks from Ken Wilson you were there for us, introducing us to folk, endorsing and supporting our work, encouraging, sometimes infuriating, but always loving. Great book, Doug.

Jon Barton