Climber rescued after being left for dead on Everest

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Left for dead near the summit of Mount Everest, Lincoln Hall, an Australian climber, looked set to join a lengthy list of mountaineers who have perished in the pursuit of the ultimate challenge. A statement was issued on Friday stating that he had died.

But later, an American climber stumbled across Hall's body, half-undressed and hatless, and then heard a voice saying: "I imagine you are surprised to see me here."

Nearly 24 hours after his fellow mountaineers had left him unconscious in the snow, Hall walked back into camp to greet his astounded colleagues, aided by a party of sherpas.

The expedition leader, Alexander Abramov, said Hall called his wife, Barbara, from the camp to tell her he was alive. "He told her that he has bad frostbite in his fingers. Barbara answered that she would love him all the same even if he lost them all," Abramov said in a message on the website

Yesterday Hall was making his way back to Everest base camp on the back of a black yak, accompanied by sherpas and a doctor. In addition to frostbite, Hall was suffering from a chest infection and cerebral oedema, a potentially fatal swelling of the brain which occurs at high altitudes.

A close friend, Simon Balderstone, who spoke to Hall, described the moment the climber was given up for dead. "When they got to the second step, Lincoln by this stage was hallucinating, he was all over the place, he was very unco-operative with people trying to convince him to keep coming down."

After hours trying to resuscitate him and in danger of losing their own lives, the sherpas abandoned Hall to a night alone on the mountainside where temperatures fell as low as minus 38C.

Last week the British climber David Sharp, 34, died on Everest when up to 40 climbers walked past him on their way down the mountain. Sir Edmund Hillary branded their actions "horrific".