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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Left behind to die

hey, he's slowing us down. leave him

Dead' Climber's Survival Impugns Mount Everest Ethics

Published: May 28, 2006

LONDON, May 27 — It has been a lethal and quirky climbing season on Mount Everest, with at least 15 deaths recorded or rumored so far.

But no episode seemed quite so strange as the story of Lincoln Hall, a 50-year-old Australian climber, who was a 16th. But only for a while.

That case revived a passionate debate over the ethics of high altitude climbing, particularly in what is called the death zone, where conditions, temperatures and the lack of oxygen combine to mean that rescuers may forfeit their own lives in trying to save a sick or incapacitated climber.

Mr. Hall, one of Australia's best-known climbers, was on an expedition whose members paid a minimum of $16,000, according to its Web site. The group included a 15-year-old Australian climber, Chris Harris, who had hoped to become the youngest climber to reach the summit.

He was forced to turn back after having problems breathing, but Mr. Hall and others made it to the top on Thursday.

Accounts on Saturday, pieced together from expedition Web sites and newspaper articles, said that on the descent, Mr. Hall suddenly collapsed. He was pronounced dead by the sherpa guides accompanying him and abandoned at 28,500 feet. The cause was understood to be cerebral edema — a swelling of the brain.

The next day, according to accounts from Mr. Hall's fellow climbers, he was seen by Dan Mazur, an American veteran of many Himalayan expeditions. Mr. Mazur, they said, realized that Mr. Hall was still alive. Almost incomprehensibly, he survived the night.

"Lincoln was motionless, but submitted weak attributes of life," Alex Abramov, the Russian leader of the expedition, said on its Web site (

The expedition dispatched a team of 13 sherpas to rescue him. Three sherpas with "tea, oxygen and medicines have reached Lincoln," the expedition Web site reported Friday.

"Lincoln has a rest, drinks tea. He in consciousness, however not completely understands what happens," Mr. Abramov wrote on the Web site.

It ascribed his initial weakness on the mountain to an "acute edema and hypoxia," meaning he was not getting enough oxygen.

By 10 p.m. local time Thursday, Mr. Hall and his rescuers were said to have descended to a camp at about 23,000 feet on the North Col of Everest. And by Saturday, "Lincoln Hall was able to walk on his own" to the Advanced Base Camp farther down the mountain.

The fact that he had been able to walk unassisted was taken as testimony to a remarkable recovery and raised the question of what might have happened to the Briton, David Sharp, if he had been helped.


The episode provoked a sharp dispute with Sir Edmund Hillary, the New Zealander who, with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, made the first verifiable conquest of Everest in 1953. Sir Edmund said that "people have completely lost sight of what is important."

"In our expedition, there was never any likelihood whatsoever if one member of the party was incapacitated that we would just leave him to die," he told a New Zealand newspaper, The Otago Daily Times

Yeah, it all comes down to that, leaving people to die like garbage on the side of the road.

posted by Steve @ 5:22:00 PM

5:22:00 PM

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