Sacred Summits



Here we look at Doug Scott's enormous respect for the sacred mountains and its people who have so selflessly contributed to his enormous achievements; the diverse rituals practiced by the mountain people, his mission to safeguard their future and to enable them to help themselves raise their standard of living and strengthen indigenous, community-based culture. 

All Himalayan peaks are of religious significance to the local people whether Anamists, Buddhists or Hindu. Today's modern commercial climbing expeditions are privileged guests, passing visitors to this most scared of natural temples. The mountains are regarded as protectors and due deference is paid to them by way of prayer, offerings and pilgrimages around the local mountain or, in some cases, offerings are made on the summit. The Yelmo sherpa of Helambu make offerings by the large Chorten on the summit of Ama Yangri, once a year for their continued health and prosperity; on climbing expeditions the sherpa erect prayer flags, burn juniper leaves and make offerings at base camp to the mountain they are about to climb with westerners, for their protection. Most expedition climbers find this a comfort and are reminded to proceed with reverence and to avoid desecrating on the mountain with rubbish or evil thoughts.  

Some of the peaks are undoubtedly more holy than others; Kangchenjunga is the chief "Country-God" of Sikkim and his dwelling place is the mountain from which it takes its name. Kangchendzonga literally means "the five repositories or snow houses of the God's treasure."   Having conquered over forty summits, Doug Scott recognises he is privileged to have been able to accomplish his ambitions and took an active interest in the welfare of the people who have in effect facilitated his fame and fortune. In 1989, appalled by the dreadful conditions in the trekking industry, Doug launched the Specialist Trekking Co-operative, to provide fair remuneration and adequate conditions for the porters and local staff. Profits from the STC and donations from trekkers, mountaineers and mountain based trusts enabled a school to be built and a Health Post established at Ghunsa. 

Forty projects later, Doug established the registered charity Community Action Nepal and re-named STC as Community Action Treks Ltd, (CAT) to more formally establish CAT as the trading arm of CAN. All this was done with the active, voluntary support of CAN's Patron, Sir Chris Bonington, and the trustees at the time, Terry Mooney, Phil Hopkinson, Jeff Frew, Mel Gillies, Dr Rob Lorge and Stephen Goodwin.  

CAN has grown organically and is far from being an artificial construct. In fact changes are made constantly to meet all the challenges of development in the sixth poorest country of the world.

Doug sees himself as facilitator, being in the fortunate position since the successful Everest South West Face climb and crawling down the Ogre with broken legs, to influence positively the move towards responsible mountain tourism and supporting mountain communities - "without even getting my hands dirty".  

To learn more about this vital project visit      

Doug Scott CBE has made 45 expeditions to the high mountains of Asia. He has reached the summit of 40 peaks, of which half were first ascents, and all were climbed by new routes or for the first time in Alpine Style. He is a past President of the Alpine Club. He was made a CBE in 1994. In 1999 he received the Royal Geographical Society Patron's Gold Medal.