When I first heard that another book would be published on the topic of The Ogre, or Baintha Brakk, I admit that I was sceptical. Collectively there exist an abundance of books, stories and articles on the survival epic endured on the mountain by Doug Scott, Chris Bonington and their fellow expedition members Mo Anthoine, Paul 'Tut' Braithwaite, Nick Estcourt and Clive Rowland in 1977, in addition to the numerous lectures and slideshows that have shared their harrowing experience of descending the peak with broken legs and ribs.
However, Doug Scott's The Ogre not only addresses the drama from Scott's own perspective, but also outlines the history of this enigmatic mountain; one that unfortunately maintained its dark reputation last year with the tragic disappearance of young American climbers Kyle Dempster and Scott Adamson on Ogre II. The book is the first in a planned series which will document the history and first ascents of Kangchenjunga, Makalu, K2, Nanga Parbat amongst others in a similar format.
The Ogre is split into two sections: the first outlines the 'biography' of the mountain, and the second is formed of Scott's perspective of the first ascent and fateful descent. For those not familiar with the geographical, cultural and political histories of the Pakistan Karakoram, this first half serves as a useful precursor to perhaps add more depth to the narrative in the second half. Scott's extensive knowledge of and appreciation for the area - both as a geography teacher and well-travelled mountaineer - is tangible in the first section as he outlines the Karakoram's unique position as a cultural crossroads where people and their religions mixed. Great attention is given to the western characters who first explored, mapped and fought in the region, whilst emphasising Scott's viewpoint that the inhabitants of these areas were not - contrary to popular belief - uncivilised and in desperate need of influence from the West. However, if history and geography are not high on your list and you're simply looking for a recount of an epic tale, perhaps this section would be less appealing.
"It makes a refreshing break from over-egged tales of heroism"
As for Scott's retelling of the 1977 first ascent, it's a highly factual account of events, which is either a refreshing break from over-egged tales of heroism, or a disappointment if you are expecting a more cerebral or heartfelt reflection on the effects that the descent had on Scott and other members of the team in the aftermath of the climb. I wouldn't go as far to say that it's merely a flat recapitulation of the ascent and descent, though, and the selfless efforts of Mo and Clive in assisting the rescue of Scott and Bonington - which were largely ignored by the media at the time - are gratefully recognised and elaborated upon by Scott as he shares an inspiring story of persistence and teamwork.
In summary, a short, beautifully presented read with plenty of photos and illustrations, in a format which stands apart from the traditional long-winded Himalayan mountaineering epic.
Some mountains are high; some mountains are hard. Few are both.
On the afternoon of 13 July 1977, having become the first climbers to reach the summit of the Ogre, Doug Scott and Chris Bonington began their long descent. In the minutes that followed, any feeling of success from their achievement would be overwhelmed by the start of a desperate fight for survival. And things would only get worse.
Rising to over 7,000 metres in the centre of the Karakoram, the Ogre – Baintha Brakk – is notorious in mountaineering circles as one of the most difficult mountains to climb. First summited by Scott and Bonington in 1977 – on expedition with Paul 'Tut' Braithwaite, Nick Estcourt, Clive Rowland and Mo Anthoine – it waited almost twenty-four years for a second ascent, and a further eleven years for a third.
The Ogre, by legendary mountaineer Doug Scott, is a two-part biography of this enigmatic peak: in the first part, Scott has painstakingly researched the geography and history of the mountain; part two is the long overdue and very personal account of his and Bonington's first ascent and their dramatic week-long descent on which Scott suffered two broken legs and Bonington smashed ribs. Using newly discovered diaries, letters and audio tapes, it tells of the heroic and selfless roles played by Clive Rowland and Mo Anthoine. When the desperate climbers finally made it back to base camp, they were to find it abandoned – and themselves still a long way from safety.
The Ogre is undoubtedly one of the greatest adventure stories of all time.
- Out now in hardback, £20
- For more info see v-publishing.co.uk