Lincoln Hall: Mountaineer who miraculously survived a night left for dead on Everest

 

Overcome by a severe form of altitude sickness, and showing no vital signs, Lincoln Hall was left for dead near the summit of Mount Everest by his Sherpa guides. The next morning, another climbing party found him sitting cross-legged near a precipitous drop, frostbitten and delirious, but still alive. "I imagine you're surprised to see me here," he told them.

It was May 2006, and Hall had just survived a night alone at more than 28,000ft, without oxygen or protective clothing. He had resolved, he explained later, that "I can't die, because I'm going back to my family. I wasn't going to let it happen; I just had to stay alive".

The extraordinary survival tale made Hall a celebrity, and gave him an aura of indestructibility that has made his death from mesothelioma, at 56, seem all the more shocking. "We thought right to the end that he'd be able to fight his way through this again... but I guess we have to finally admit that he wasn't invincible," said his long-time friend and climbing partner, Simon Balderstone.

He and others close to Hall – believed to have contracted the rare cancer because of exposure to asbestos in his youth – are mourning not only an internationally respected climber, but a prolific writer with a deep spiritual connection to the region where he tested himself repeatedly. Hall embraced Tibetan Buddhism, took up the Tibetan cause and founded a programme to establish schools in the Himalayas.

Born in Canberra on 19 December 1955, he began rock climbing at 15. "I was amazed to find a whole new world that required intense focus, precise judgement and the willingness to take risks," he wrote later. He studied zoology at the Australian National University, where he joined a mountaineering club, going on to scale peaks in New Zealand, the Andes and Antarctica.

In 1984, he was a member of the first Australian Everest team, which scaled the mountain's north face, forging a new path for climbers without oxygen. While two of his companions reached the top, he stopped a few hundred yards short. "To survive as a mountaineer, the most important skill is knowing when to draw the line, and I could see it then as clearly as if it were painted in the snow," he said.

White Limbo, about the expedition, was just one of a dozen or so books which Hall wrote – about his own experiences, and about fellow mountaineers and adventurers, including Douglas Mawson, the Australian Antarctic explorer. Dead Lucky was his account of surviving his second assault on Everest, which also inspired a 2008 documentary, Miracle on Everest.

This time Hall reached the summit; however, on his way down, he collapsed, struck by cerebral edema, a brain swelling that causes hallucinations and extreme fatigue. The Sherpas spent hours trying to revive him and drag him to safety, but were eventually ordered to leave by the expedition leader. They took Hall's pack, sleeping bag, water, oxygen and food. His death was announced, and his family informed.

The next morning, an expedition led by an American guide, Don Mazur, found him, wearing just a thin fleece top, and with no hat, gloves or sunglasses. They abandoned their summit bid to save him. Hall, who lost a toe and the tips of eight fingers, attributed his survival partly to his training in deep-breathing meditation and his decades of mountaineering experience, which had "hard-wired" him never to give up.

Hall's writings on Tibet earned him a personal letter of thanks from the Dalai Lama. In 2002 he set up the Australian Himalayan Foundation. In recent years, he and his family – his wife, Barbara, and their two sons, Dylan and Dorje – moved to the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. Hall, who helped his father build two cubbyhouses from asbestos sheets when in his 20s, was diagnosed with mesothelioma last year.

Friends remembered him as perpetually good-humoured and relaxed. James Woodford, an Australian journalist who climbed an iceberg with him in Antarctica in 1997, reached the summit to find Hall performing "a very long, very impressive and very strong headstand". "He was truly the coolest person you could ever be in a tight spot with," recalled a fellow Australian mountaineer, Peter Cocker.

Balderstone said: "There were very few tougher, better climbers in the world, and very few better people. He was... a simply wonderful human being and a wonderful humanitarian."

Kathy Marks

Lincoln Ross Hall, Australian mountaineer: born Canberra 19 December 1955; married Barbara (two sons); died Sydney 20 March 2012.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
news
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
tvChristmas special reviewed
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Sport
sport
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all