Back in 2001, I was working at Berghaus and we were developing a new marketing campaign – ‘Trust Is Earned’. To bring that to life in advertising, we wanted to tell some stories about strong bonds of trust that had been forged over time, or in exceptional circumstances. And first on our list of potential subjects was an epic tale from 1977, featuring Chris Bonington, Doug Scott and the Ogre. To illustrate this, our hope was to capture a photo of the two men at the top of Shepherd’s Crag 24 years later, chatting after topping out on a climb. Sir Chris was Berghaus chairman and to some degree obliged to participate, but Doug had no formal connection to the company. In fact, I don’t think he had an official sponsorship deal with any brand.
It fell to me to contact Doug and ask him if he would be willing to get involved. It’s fair to say that I was a little nervous when I made the telephone call. Of course, I knew of Doug and revered his reputation, but I didn’t actually know him at all. He listened to my request and agreed to it without hesitation, stating that he’d been given his fair share of Berghaus kit on expeditions over the years, so was happy to do this in return. What should have followed was a discussion about terms and a fee. Instead, Doug simply requested that Community Action Nepal (CAN) be bumped up the list for receiving returns, ex-samples and obsolete stock, so that he could send it out to the Nepalese people that the charity supported. The deal was done.
The photoshoot itself went like a dream, as they say. Chris and Doug did indeed climb a route on Shepherd’s Crag (clearly thoroughly enjoying each other’s company in the process) and I was waiting at the top with the advertising firm’s creative team. In the photo that was used in the campaign, Chris was at that moment telling me that he needed to hurry, as he was hosting a dinner party the same night. We wrapped up the shoot, and Chris headed off into the gathering dusk. On the other hand, Doug suggested that we pop into the hotel bar near the base of the crag for a pint, where we sat and chatted about all manner of topics. I distinctly remember talking about Nottingham for a while, and a dog that he once had that was called Aragorn (or Strider, I can’t quite recall which!).
The image from Shepherd’s Crag did indeed lead the Trust Is Earned campaign and became somewhat iconic. I have a framed copy on one office wall. On another, I have a signed print of a photo of Doug atop Everest in September 1975 (the version without the oxygen mask), which I bought during an auction at the next CAN AGM. Yes, it turns out that the deal I struck was a long term one. I met and corresponded with Doug numerous times after that photoshoot and on every occasion, he pressed me to attend CAN events, or to keep the charity high on the kit recipient list, or to print a few hundred more posters of the campaign photo so he could sell them and raise some more money. Every request from Doug that came my way was for CAN, not for him.
I’m not a big fan of ‘hero’ or ‘legend’ in the sense that we tend to use the words in society. That way, I am rarely disappointed. But there are some people in the outdoor community who fit the descriptions and I am hugely fortunate to know, or have known, a few of them. Along with wonderful colleagues and my own passion for the natural world, they are the reason that I work in the outdoor industry. Directly and indirectly, they have shaped our sector and gifted it with its soul. And for me, Doug represents that soul as much as anyone else.
We can continue to support CAN at https://www.canepal.org.uk/howtohelp.