Review by Steve Matthews of Bookcase and Bookends.
Doug Scott was “well fed and content with the day’s climbing”. He’d just had a meal of freeze-dried beef stroganoff followed by re-hydrated apple flakes washed down by copious cups of tea. Chris Bonington had melted the snow to make the tea. Clive Rowland and Mo Anthoine had dug a cave into the snow and the four of them were snuggling down for the night in their sleeping bags. They were on The Ogre and preparing for their final assault on the unclimbed 23,900 feet summit. Doug Scott felt no anxiety. He was calm and curious “to see how it was up there and how (he) would manage”.
The next day Doug took the lead. He and a tired Chris, “were climbing on superb brown weathered granite without a breath of wind and with the sun beating down”. The final snow gully to the summit involved negotiating an overhang. “Chris made an attempt, but couldn’t make it.”
Doug, who wasn’t wearing crampons, then climbed on Chris’s back, and made his way up the gully and reached the summit.
“In those precious moments alone” (on the summit), writes Doug Scott, “I had never felt more ‘in the mountains’ for that was all there was to see – mountains and glaciers in every direction.”
Chris joined him and their mission, to be the first to climb the notorious Ogre in the Karakoram Range, was accomplished. It was 7 pm on 13th July, 1977.
Climbing down the rock in the fading light, Doug slipped on a patch of ice and swung free, repeatedly banging his body against the rock face. “Luckily I was still conscious . . . I had come to a halt, hanging free, so I stretched out a toe to push against the rock and swing myself on to a ledge. “there was something badly wrong with my left leg as pain shot up it in to the groin.”
Doug, in fact, had broken both of his legs. Chris abseiled down. He told Doug that he wasn’t going to die and that they would get him down somehow. Chris then abseiled down further to a snow ledge and Doug abseiled down to join him. They were benighted at 23,000 feet, on a vertical rock, with no sleeping bags. Remarkably, Chris, famous for his snoring, slept like a log. The pair of them woke occasionally to rub each other’s toes to keep frost-bite at bay. The pair of them survived.
In the morning they made several further abseils to a place where Clive and Mo were able to make their way across the snow and prepare a welcome brew of tea. Doug “crabbed” his way back to the bivouac and, by 8 am, they were all eating the last of their freeze-dried meals.
That day, as they slept, the weather broke. They woke to find themselves in a maelstrom of snow.
It was one of the great mountain climbs.
Forty years later, Doug Scott now tells the story of that epic and heroic expedition with the aid of newly discovered diaries, letters and audio-tapes. He writes of the history of the mountain fabled among climbers. It was a further twenty four years before the Ogre was climbed again and another eleven years before the third ascent and he recalls his own ascent with a directness and precision, an almost clinical objectivity, which makes the telling graphic and all the more powerful. The pictures tell their own story. Mo and Clive sitting smoking on a snowy arete. Chris digging out an entry to a snow cave, Doug, in his sunglasses, his climbing suit unzipped, standing on the summit with the all the rugged peaks of the Karakoram stretching behind him.