Kangchenjunga is the third highest mountain in the world and a notoriously difficult and dangerous mountain to climb. First climbed from the west in 1955 by a British team comprising Joe Brown, George Band, Tony Streather and Norman Hardie, it waited over twenty years for a second ascent. The third ascent, from the north, was made in 1979 by a four-man team including the visionary British alpinist Doug Scott.
Completed before his death in 2020, and edited by Catherine Moorehead, Kangchenjunga is Doug Scott’s final book. Scott explores the mountain and its varied people – the mountain sits on the border between Nepal and Sikkim in north-east India – before going on to look at Western approaches and early climbing attempts on the mountain. Kangchenjunga was in fact long believed to be the highest mountain in the world, until in the nineteenth century it was demonstrated that Peak XV – Everest – was taller. Out of respect for the beliefs of the Sikkimese, no climber has ever set foot on the very top of Kangchenjunga, the sacred summit.
Scott’s own relationship with the mountain began in 1978, three years after his first British ascent of Everest with Dougal Haston. The assembled team featured some of the greatest mountaineers in history: Scott, Joe Tasker, Peter Boardman and Georges Bettembourg. The plan was for a stripped-down expedition the following spring – minimal Sherpa support, no radios, largely self-financed. It was the first time a mountain of this scale had been attempted by a new and difficult route without the use of oxygen, and with such a small team. Scott, Tasker and Boardman summited on 16 May 1979, further consolidating their legends in this golden era.
Kangchenjunga is Doug Scott’s tribute to this sacred mountain, a paean for a Himalayan giant, written by a giant of Himalayan climbing.