Miracle on Everest

Australian climber’s 48 hours in the Death Zone

Monday May 29, 2006
By Cole Moreton and David Eames

Lincoln Hall was left for dead.

The leader of his climbing team, Russian Alexander Abramov, had made the announcement and the 50-year-old’s widow was grieving back home in Australia. Sherpas trying to save him had run out of oxygen and been forced to leave his body on top of Mt Everest in murderous cold.

Then something astonishing happened. An American climber on his way to the summit early next morning saw the frozen body and noticed faint signs of life.

He gave the confused, frostbitten man hot tea and oxygen and radioed for help. Eleven sherpas climbed up to bring Hall down on a stretcher. It took them all day and long into the night.

The expedition doctor was waiting below at the North Col camp in a dining tent he had converted into a field hospital. Hall was severely frostbitten and suffering from altitude sickness and “acute psychosis, a disorientation in space”.

But after giving him oxygen and wrapping him in a sleeping bag the doctor, Andrey Selivanov, reported his survival to those who were mourning him with the words: “We shall overcome!”

Hall is now moving by yak to a lower altitude camp after arriving at Advanced Base Camp at 6400m, on Saturday, ending one of the most remarkable rescues in the history of the world’s highest mountain.

He called his wife, Barbara Scanlon, at home in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, soon after his rescue and told her of his frostbitten fingers. She is understood to have replied: “I would love you the same even if you lost them all.”

However, the Project Himalaya website was last night reporting Hall was unlikely to lose any fingers, and was being treated by “a superb frostbite expert”.

Project Himalaya organiser and Everest guide New Zealander Jamie McGuinness last night described Hall’s rescue as “pretty miraculous”, and one of the great escapes.

Hall survived almost 48 hours in the so-called Death Zone above 8000m - 12 of them without bottled oxygen - after reaching the peak on Thursday. The Death Zone is where oxygen starvation causes the body to deteriorate rapidly, and the brain and lungs can fill with fluid.

[b]The rescue came just days after it emerged that a British man, 34-year-old David Sharp, had been ignored by climbers as he lay dying on a busy route to the top.

New Zealand climber Mark Inglis - who recently became the first double amputee to scale Everest - was criticised when he admitted more than 40 climbers had passed Sharp as he lay dying near the summit.

Inglis said it would have been pointless to attempt saving Sharp, as he was “effectively dead”, and at such altitudes it was hard enough to keep oneself alive.

But the behaviour of Inglis and others was described as “horrific” by Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to conquer Everest, 53 years ago today.

“Human life is far more important than just getting to the top of a mountain,” Sir Edmund said at the time.[/b]

McGuinness last night told the Herald Hall owed his survival to the fact he had climbed with professionals, where Sharp had not.

“David Sharp basically had no back-up because he was climbing with a budget company … they couldn’t send sherpas up to find him.”

He said that even if Sharp had been rescued he would likely have suffered dreadful injuries.

“You have got to wonder whether somebody wants to live through that … both arms chopped off, both legs chopped off and then probably needing a brain transplant, as well.”

Only 1300 people had climbed Everest by the turn of the century - but in the past six years, this number has almost doubled, thanks to better climbing technology and commercial exploitation of the mountain.

The atmosphere on Everest has been described as “a circus” and “a graveyard” in weblogs from the crowded slopes in the past few days. Some climbers have turned back, sickened by the 11 recorded deaths so far this year - the worst-ever season for individual fatal incidents on Everest.

There may be more. Abramov, leader of the 7Summits Club team with which Hall was climbing, says he believes 15 people have died.

The reason for so many deaths, he wrote on his weblog, has been extremely good, windless weather.

“The weather has allowed plenty of climbers to reach the summit. In more severe conditions, they probably would stop climbing at lower heights.”

Hall already knew, at first hand, how dangerous the mountain could be: in 1984 he failed in a team attempt to climb the north face without bottled oxygen.

He abandoned his own attempt at 8300m that time, fearing for his health, and let others go on ahead.

Hall wrote afterwards that although he would never see the summit panorama, “I know that no view is worth that price”.

This year he returned, hoping to help a 15-year-old called Chris Harris break the record for the youngest person to reach the top.

Chris was forced to give up, but Hall felt able to go on. He left the summit assault camp at 8300m on Wednesday morning with five sherpas and the experienced guide, Harry Kikstra, alongside Thomas Weber, a visually impaired German climber.

Only 50m from the top, Weber became totally blind. He turned back with Kikstra and two sherpas, but collapsed, saying “I am dying”, and never recovered consciousness.

Meanwhile, Hall had reached the summit, but was losing co-ordination as high-altitude cerebral edema caused fluid to collect in his brain. He sat down in the snow just below the peak, unable to move on his own. The three sherpas tried to haul him down the mountain, but after nine hours they had moved only 100m down the icy ridge.

By then Hall was showing no signs of life.

The sherpas were exhausted and had no oxygen left. But they reportedly had to be ordered by their expedition leader on the radio to come down to camp in the darkness and save their own lives.

They had to be helped down the mountain the next day. So Hall was left for dead, close to the body of Weber.

  • Cole Moreton writes for the Independent in London.



Midnight (local time): Australian climber Lincoln Hall, 50, sets out for Everest summit from an assault camp at 8300m. He is accompanied by five Sherpas, guide Harry Kikstra and German climber Thomas Weber.

About 50m from the summit, Weber, who is visually impaired, goes totally blind and is escorted down the mountain by Kikstra and two Sherpas. He dies a few hours later.

9am: Hall reaches Everest summit at 8848m.

10am: Becomes unwell at 8800m, suffering a suspected cerebral oedema (swelling of the brain). Three Sherpas spend nine hours dragging him down the mountain, managing to move him only about 100m.

The Sherpas are told to leave Hall - who by now is showing “no signs of life” - and save themselves.


7am: Another climbing expedition heading for the summit finds Hall lying in the snow, barely alive. He is given oxygen and hot tea. A rescue attempt is mounted.

11am: Rescue Sherpas reach Hall and start their descent.

10pm: The team reach a staging camp at about 7000m. Hall is reported to be confused, and suffering acute cerebral oedema and hypoxia.


Late morning: Hall arrives at Everest advanced base camp at 6400m.

2pm: He is spotted in the camp, having - in the words of Nepal-based New Zealand rescuer Jamie McGuinness - walked down the mountain “pretty much on his own”.

Source: www.mounteverest.net

This is especially interesting as there has been a HYOOOGE fuss here the last week in relation to the bolded part in the middle.

Especially when you see how climbing Mt. Everest really works nowadays.

Watched a documentary about it. It’s absurd.
At 6000+ meters you have a tent-camp and some of the (quite wealthy) “climbers” have (local) servants who make their coffee and carry their things.
The climbers just sit or lay around complaining about the headache the thin air gives them.

Even above 6000m most parts seems to be more hiking than climbing, just the last few hundred meters you see a long line of completely unfit tourists getting their asses pushed up the steeper rocks by some local and foreign guides.
Of course you need some experience with oxygen support. But that, basic fitness and a little experience in the mountains should do.

They reminded me of the guys who try to run a marathon in 5+ hours - those who survive it are very proud because a lot of them give up and some even have a heart attack.

The expeditions only failed, because a storm was coming and they had to wait a few hours in a long line that built up on the track to the peak(!), bacouse of some clumsy unfit tourists the sherpas still tried to push up the mountain!

They just follow the beaten track like a line of ants. Ok, the extreme cold and thin air might make it quite exhausting, but I can see no reason why you can’t save a dying man up there as long as you have your oxygen.

Who did that - the Yeti-Monster? Is that facts or just a exaggerated picture?:

BEATEN TRACK??? WHERE - this Is Lincoln Hall on his Ascent on Everest

this second shot is him trying for the top in 1984

I did not talk about the north face or any other spectacular climbing routes up, I was talking about the track where hundreds of people walk up every year (I thought this was where “40 people passed” - maybe I’m wrong).
Sorry, different to the noth face pictures you posted it does not look spectacular at all - you just have to be aware that the cold, avalanches, weather and the thin air can kill you.
It looks more like a long line on a busy main road…if my upload limit was not reached I would post some pics.

“Double amputee”, “visually impaird climber gets blind” - reading the article the first time I thought it was a Monty Python like joke anyhow…

They remove limbs due to severe frostbite (fingers and toes are common place) that is what happened to Mark Inglis, who had both legs removed just above the knee after he and another guy were trapped in an ice cave on one of the mountains here for 14 days :eek:

All right - I did not consider that. In fact I know a some climbers here in AUT without fingers or toes (same reason)… :frowning:

The man could have been saved- but only by climbers on the way UP, not back down, and that team would have to be willing to abandon the summit and head back down. No one was willing to do it. Don’t expect any help from your own team leader either, as you can see. (Tourists can just prey that the sherpas who hauled them up there will haul them back down again)
Maybe this warning will deter some of this organized madness in a way that all the previous tales of death and amputation have failed to do.

No – because everyone is always so sure it won’t be them.