Sunday, 6 March 2016

Book review: Up and away - The Hard Road to Everest by Doug Scott

I've was fortunate to be selected to write a review of the above book by the Mountain Training Associaton for The Professional Mountaineer magazine which is circulated to all British Mountain Guides as well as members of The Association of Mountain Instructors as well as members of the MTA. I believe the circulation is in excess of 6000.

Below is a transcript of the review - to cut it short - it's an excellent book!

Enjoy and stay safe


‘Up and Away – the hard road to Everest’ Doug Scott Book Review

By Ian Ridley

“No matter how much we might try to convince ourselves that Everest is just another mountain, reaching its summit changes everyone who climbs it, in one way or another. It is the peak with the most history, the greatest height, the lowest temperatures and the wildest storms” so says Doug Scott towards the end of his authoritative and hugely impressive autobiography. Up and Away, is the first volume of a two part collection, that chronicles the earliest years of his child hood and a very normal up-bringing through to adult hood and becoming a teacher, and finally to summiting Mount Everest via the south-west face on 24 September 1975 aged 34.

I’ve only met Doug Scott twice, well I say ‘’met”, I’ve been to two of his lectures!

I was fortunate to attend a school in London back in 1977 when he kindly visited to give a lecture. Aged 15 and interested in climbing but having been no further than the Lake District, I was mesmerised by his story. In particular I remember one of his stunning photographs looking out across the Western Cwm, the highest valley in the world, towards Pumori with white fluffy clouds billowing up from below. It made me think that one day I too would love to look down upon the clouds from such a lofty vantage point. That dream was realised when on 25 May 2012 I too stood on the summit of Everest. 

So it was with great anticipation that I awaited a copy of ‘Up and About - the hard road to Everest’ to land on my doorstep.

As with any book, you tend to read the cover, then see how many pages the book has, the size of the print, the number of photographs which in this case is prodigious with over 230, both colour and black-and-white. However what really stood out for me the comprehensiveness of the index, which extends to 11 pages (with around 1900 entries) – this is not only an autobiography but an encyclopaedia of climbing! And herein lies a clue to the mind-set of this legendary man and the awe-inspiring life he has led.

For those too young to remember the 60’s and 70s, Doug Scott is one of the country’s, indeed world’s, top climbers, having led numerous first ascents across the globe and his book is a tremendously detailed account of the world of climbing during that era. It’s also a testament to his staggering memory, given the clarity in which he recalls his life.

There’s no doubt that climbing is in every sinew of his body.  However the book, is very honest and I suspect, for him writing the book was also cathartic. He writes with true passion but his humility and modesty shine through as he reflects on his experiences. There’s plenty on the successes of other climbers and how without them he would never have achieved so much. He was obviously very driven to feed his climbing habit which he admits lead to some selfish behaviour. Most climbers can relate to that but will also share the link between climbing in the mountains and respect for nature and the people who live there; and the difficulty of leaving loved ones at home for so long.

Reading the book, one encounters moments of great sadness recording the loss of friends, but there are enjoyably amusing moments too.

‘Up and About’ is not only an excellent account of what drives Doug Scott, but also how the mountains have changed his perspective on life. It is also an excellent social commentary on the massive changes to post-war Britain in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

 Would I recommend it? – Most definitely, to climbers and non-climbers alike.

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