THE highs don’t come any higher than standing on top of Everest, as Doug Scott can testify.

During a fund-raising visit to Hexham, the mountaineer took a Forum Cinema audience on a journey to the summit as he reminisced about the highlight of his year – and probably his climbing career – back in 1975.

On the way up, Doug and his often-times climbing buddy Dougal Haston became the first Brits to conquer the South West Face (discounting Mallory and Irvine) – five previous expeditions had failed in the trying.

“We reached the summit at six o’clock in the evening, which was a bit late,” said Doug. “But we had spent eight or nine months of our lives preparing for this. We were overjoyed!

“It was a unique moment. It was just him and me, watching the clouds billowing up from Nepal and the most amazing sunset.”

Famously, the pair then survived the highest ever bivouac in history on the way down. Night had descended.

He said: “We’d also run out of oxygen. The fact we spent a night there without oxygen and without getting frostbite gave me great confidence for the future. I didn’t need oxygen, I realised.”

The pair were followed two days later by Peter Boardman and Pertemba Sherpa, the second of the two teams to summit during that particular expedition led by Chris Bonnington.

But then disaster struck. “Another pair went up, but Mick disappeared on that attempt, so Chris called off the rest of the expedition,” said Doug, in just one of the many half-references that left some of us scratching our heads. You had to know his biography in advance to make the facts fits.

This reference, though, was to BBC cameraman Michael Burke who continued the climb alone after companion Martin Boysen turned back. Burke fell to his death just below the summit. Sherpa Mingma Nuru also died, in a separate fall.

Doug had lost around a dozen comrades-in-arms to the mountains, he said. One, John Flemming, had been just 18-years-old when he was swept away by a river during an expedition in the Hindu Khush, the 500 mile long mountain range on the Afghan-Pakistan border.

“He was the first of a dozen friends to perish,” he said. “Members of our team went all the way home to tell his parents, in Cornwall. They never ever got over it, and John’s body was never found.” He spoke of the appalling occasion, too, in which his team were notified of the plight of an all female team of Russian climbers, who were ahead of them on Lenin Peak, on the Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan border.

“One of their party had died, but the other three said over the radio they were going on to the peak, in the best traditions of a challenge,” he said..

“But then we gradually came across them, one by one, strung out across the ridge – they’d all frozen to death.

“It was all the more terrible because their husbands and partners were on another peak nearby.

“They came back into camp to find out what had happened.”

Doug Scott has conquered 40 peaks – half of which were climbed by new routes or for the first time in Alpine Style, carrying his own gear – and he is one of the few to have done the seven summits, the highest peaks on all seven continents.

When he was presented with one of mountaineering’s highest honours, the Piolet d’Or Lifetime Achievement Award, the citation described his personal style and his choice of climbs as “visionary”.

His talk in Hexham, organised by Hexham Rotary Club, was in aid of two charities – his own Community Action Nepal and Rotary’s emergency Disaster Fund.

Now aged 77, he was in Hexham to promote and raise funds for the charity, Community Action Nepal, he established to help the Himalayan kingdom in its post-earthquakes hour of need.