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
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
film
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
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

Recruitment Genius: Junior Account Manager / Telesales - £24,000 OTE

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Strong telesales or retail expe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £Competitive: SThree: SThree Group and have be...

Recruitment Genius: Chief Engineer

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chief Engineer is required to...

Recruitment Genius: Web Marketing Specialist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading Renewable Energy compa...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?