On This Day in History: 1975, Doug Scott and Dougal Haston Become the First Britons to Summit Everest

 Not just the first Britons (assuming Mallory and Irvine did not), but the first to ascend via the North West Face. The expedition commanded by Chris Bonnington, through tenacity, determination, and imagination, a route was found through the rock band ribboned around the North West face, and on the evening of 24th September, Doug Scott and Dougal Haston reached the summit of Everest. Given the lateness, they had no choice but to have a sleepless bivouac above 28,000 ft, but as one of them said later, the quality of survival had been good.

However, tragedy broke on the 26th September, when a second bid for the summit was made by Pete Boardman, Martin Boysen, Sherpa Pertemba, and Mick Burke who was the expedition's film cameraman. Martin Boysen lost a crampon had had to retreat to Camp 6 and Pete Boardman and Pertemba reached the summit at about 1PM, but the weather conditions were almost white out by then.

Then on returning, they had not gone far when they saw Mick Burke, who wanted to film the summit and suggested they return. He then changed his mind and asked Boardman and Pertemba to wait at the South Summit while he went to the Summit to film.

However, the weather soon seriously deteriorated and Pertemba and Boardman waited at the South Summit for over an hour in appalling weather. It was getting dark and they made the agonising decision to return to Camp 6. They barely made it back three hours later. The weather relented after two days and the mountain was cleared. Mick Burke's body has never been found and it is thought that he likely fell to his death while returning from the summit. A horrible addition to an incredible achievement.

Doug Scott died in 2020, and Dougal Haston was killed in an avalanche in 1977. Pete Boardman disappeared on Everest in 1982, and Chris Bonnington, Martin Boysen, and Pertemba are still with us, and still involved in the mountaineering community


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