The first thing that surprised me about this book was that, despite its size, it only covers the first half of Scott's climbing life. Why so big? Well on reading this autobiography I realised the sheer volume of climbing that Scott has accomplished. From the gritstone crags of the UK to the perfect granite of Yosemite and culminating in the first British ascent of Everest, this book covers all Scott's early life and initial climbing.
Much is made of the Everest ascent, and rightly so, with the famous bivouac close to the summit, survived without oxygen, without sleeping bags, and incredibly without frost bite, but what for me was more interesting in this book was Scott's adventurous life, his other less well documented adventures, and also some of the fantastic photographs.
The photos are split in to three sections of colour images, but throughout the book we are treated to sporadic black and white shots on the actual text pages, which really add to the depth of the adventures within the pages.
The book is well written, and expertly edited by Ed Douglas. There are many anecdotes concerning well known figures of the British climbing scene, from new routes at Gogarth through to of course the summit of Everest, and they are told in a no nonsense, but never hilarious way. The words don't flow off the page with the humour of Kirkpatrick and there isn't quite the reflective journey found in other climbers' literature like Learning to Breathe by Andy Cave, but this book captures a huge slice of British climbing history and keeps the reader entertained and engaged throughout.
For me the best part of the book was the Everest summit and ensuing bivvy on the way back down. In this, perhaps one of the most incredible mountaineering achievements of all time, Scott's wonderfully matter of fact prose, which is an absolute antidote to today's hype, is juxtaposed with short bursts of interesting description that open a window to his real character and his experiences on the top of the world, where he speaks of 'tapping in to morphic fields'.
I don't know what morphic fields are exactly, and if you need to survive an 8000m bivuoac to find out, then I'll take Doug's word it for that they are indeed worth tapping in to. Well done that man.
To summarise, this is a good book, well written and engaging, very much typifying the understated British mountaineer, and somehow including some incredible achievements, yet making them sound like everyone could reach those heights.
What Vertebrate publishing Say:
In Up and About Scott tells his story from his birth in Nottingham during the darkest days of war to the summit of the world. Surviving the highest bivouac ever – without bottled oxygen or sleeping bags – Scott and his partner, Dougal Haston, returned home national heroes after becoming the first Britons confirmed to have successfully summitted Everest. Scott went on to become one of Britain’s greatest ever mountaineers, pioneering new climbs in the remotest corners of the globe.
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