Dougal Haston

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Dougal Haston, (19 April 1940 – 17 January 1977), was a Scottish mountaineer famed for his exploits in the British Isles, Alps, and Himalayas. Later focusing on guiding and instruction, he became director of the International School of Mountaineering at Leysin, Switzerland, in 1967, a role which he held till his death in an avalanche while skiing above Leysin ten years later.[1]


Haston was born in Currie, on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Early in his career he climbed numerous new Scottish routes with Robin Smith. Routes such as The Bat on the Carn Dearg Buttress of Ben Nevis helped establish the pair as future stars. Smith died in an accident in 1963.

But Haston lived on to realize his early promise. In 1970, he and Don Whillans were the first to climb the south face of Annapurna on an expedition led by Chris Bonington, and in 1975 he and Doug Scott were the first pair to summit Mount Everest by the south-west face, also led by Bonington.

Haston's memorial in Currie mistakenly claims he was the first British climber to ascend the north face of the Eiger. In fact, it was done by Bonington and Ian Clough in 1962, but he made the first ascent of the Nordwand by the direttissima, or most direct route, in 1966 with Jörg Lehne, Günther Strobel, Roland Votteler and Siegfried Hupfauer. American John Harlin was killed when a rope (chosen by him over Haston's request they be thicker) broke; the route was subsequently named in Harlin's memory.

Adding guiding and instruction to his quiver, Haston became director of the International School of Mountaineering at Leysin, Switzerland,[][1] in 1967. Taking over from the founder, John Harlin, it was a position he maintained until his death in a skiing accident in 1977.[1]

In 1975, Haston was credited as an adviser on the movie The Eiger Sanction, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. He may also have appeared briefly in the film, although he is not mentioned in the credits in an acting role. At 1:26:25, a waiter appears in a restaurant scene (his face is not shown); he speaks a line in a distinctively 'Edinburgh' accent, then leaves.

Haston was killed in an avalanche in January 1977 while skiing alone above Leysin on the north-east face of La Riondaz to the Col Luisset. It appeared that he had been choked by his scarf. He is buried in Edinburgh.


"In winter, the mountains seem to regain their primitive, virginal pride, and no more do the howling, littering summer masses tramp their more accessible slopes." — Dougal Haston quoted in Jeff Connors' biography (p 104)

"...that most impenetrable of big walls, the mind of Dougal Haston." — from a review of Connors' biography.[2]

"ethics are like erections: No matter how well intentioned they might be they are prone to sudden deflation." — Dougal Haston quoted in Will Steffen' Himalayan Dreaming (p 429)


Haston: A Life in the Mountains BBC2 2006.


  • Haston, Dougal and Gillman, Peter (1966). Eiger Direct. London: Collins.
  • Haston, Dougal (1972). In High Places. London: Cassell. ISBN 0-304-29073-4.
  • Haston, Dougal (1974). The Eiger. London: Cassell. ISBN 0-304-29373-3.
  • Haston, Dougal (1979). Calculated Risk. London: Diadem Books. ISBN 0-906371-45-7.
  • Connor, Jeff (2002). Dougal Haston: The Philosophy of Risk. Edinburgh: Canongate Books. ISBN 1-84195-215-X.


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