Hiker Left for Dead on Mount Everest

Near the top of Everest, the soft morning light revealed clear blue skies for miles around.

By Cathy Free from Reader's Digest | December 2006

He’d spent seven hours clambering up the mountain through ice and snow, and now an exhausted Daniel Mazur sensed that success was near.

Although it was ten degrees below zero near the top of Everest, the soft morning light revealed clear blue skies for miles around. This is perfect — we’re definitely going to summit today, the climbing guide told himself, digging his crampons into the ice and taking a few more cautious steps. He and his companions were less than three hours away from the spectacular 29,035-foot summit.

Near the top of Mount EverestRichard I'Anson/Lonely Planet ImagesNear the top of Everest, the soft morning light revealed clear blue skies for miles around.

It was 7:30 a.m. when Mazur climbed onto a narrow ledge called Mushroom Rock to rest and offer encouragement to his SummitClimb teammates, Andrew Brash of Canada, Myles Osborne of England and their Sherpa guide, Jongbu.

As the men looked out on the snow-covered peaks below, Mazur suddenly saw a flash of bright yellow to his left. Was it a tent? No way, he thought, squinting to take a closer look. No climber would camp out at this altitude. The yellow blur moved again, and Mazur’s jaw dropped in amazement. What the hell? he wondered.

Perched precariously on the edge of a jagged cliff was a man sitting cross-legged, trying to change his shirt. His thick snowsuit was unzipped to the waist and he had no hat, gloves or sunglasses.

Without an oxygen mask, sleeping bag, food or water, there was no reason for Lincoln Hall to be alive at 28,000 feet, and he seemed to know it. Pulling his frostbitten hands out of his shirt, Hall looked up at Mazur.

“I imagine you are surprised to see me here,” he said.

Hall had been alone on the mountain since 7:30 the night before. Following an arduous climb up the north ridge, he and his teammates had reached the summit at nine that morning. After celebrating the glorious view of the earth’s curve and posing for victory photos, they started on their descent, hoping to reach camp before dangerous afternoon storms rolled in.

But at 28,000 feet, Hall’s feet had stopped moving and he was overcome by a deep fatigue. He turned to one of the Sherpas he was climbing with. “I need to lie down — I need to sleep,” he told him.

With 25 years of experience behind him, Hall was a seasoned mountaineer. He had climbed Everest once before, in 1984, but failed to summit. Now, although he didn’t have the presence of mind to realize it, he was suffering from cerebral edema, a severe form of altitude sickness. The condition causes the brain to swell and leads to a stumbling, intoxicated gait, hallucinations and, eventually, death.

In fact, this area of the mountain, right below the summit, is known as the “death zone.” It is incredibly steep and icy, requiring climbers to use fixed ropes and ice axes to hack their way to the top and then back down again. And because of the high altitude, if a climber is going to get sick, it usually happens here.

Normally, the descent from here to advanced base camp takes about two hours. But Hall was weak and increasingly uncooperative as the edema overtook him. Two Sherpas had to lower him down between them, wasting precious daylight, while the rest of the group kept going.

After nine hours, Hall went limp. He appeared to be dead, and the Sherpas were ordered by their leader to leave him on the mountain.

Checking one last time for signs of life, one of the men poked Hall in the eye. When there was no response, they gathered his backpack, food, water and extra oxygen and returned to the high camp.

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  • Your Comments

    • Leventhal

      God will reward Mazur and Hall. as for the scum who left Hall to die. Well, their fate is decided and they probably have no idea that they are gonna rot in hell.

    • Belinda Contague

      So they missed their once in a lifetime experience, lost thousands of dollars, and risked their lives just to save some idiot who had no business being up there? If he was still there when I came back, I’d help him down but no way would I even slow down on the way up.

    • Baalzabarber

      Kudos to the rescuers.
      Dropping $20K on your life’s dream and sacrificing it for a prefect stranger in need?
      That is truly commendable.

      Where are people like this when election time comes around in this country?
      We need these kind of folks in government.

      • Brockssssss

        What do you mean?” We elected Obama twice, what more do you want?

    • JBnID

      Sir, you climbed a higher mountain than Everest with your sacrifice.

    • cmmrc

      We enjoy the ability of opinion without the knowledge of our disability of thought. Mt. Everest is a dangerous place, kind like a burning building, those who run in, reach the top floor and come back, get a trophy. Those who run in are daredevils, and not trained in rescue people from a burning building. If you are not a professional rescuer in any circumstances, do not attempt to rescue, since you are most likely to add yourself to the victims’ list.

    • EarthAngel

      We never do anything alone, even though we sometimes think we are alone here on Earth. There is forever a Higher Power guiding us. What a wonderfull story of succes and of moral integrity, utilizing Will, and Will-Power to sustain precious life we are given as a Gift. Whatever we think our purpose is in this lifetime, when we typically do something, it initially is just ego based. Our Inner Guide and Our Higher Power propels us to move in the direction of our true mission, unbeknowst to us at the time, affecting others and ourselves, where every action creates a reaction, feeding our souls, and healing our lineage past. For all who took part in this venture, through every decision they made, every action they took, were witnesses to their own internal and eternal Fruits of Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control. Thank you or sharing.
      In Harmony

    • Janedear

      I salute THE REAL MEN that stopped to helped a fallen man. They are AMAZING. They won much MORE than ANY summit, they won their HUMANITY.

    • Echidna

      Perhaps they should publish a “list of shame” with the names of all those 40 people who refused a cry for help (and all those in future who do as well). That way people whom the “summiteer” knows and brags to could check his/her name against the list and learn the truth of that person.

    • Bojorco

      Lotta rich Type-A guys out there who would be only too happy to leave their buddies to die just to reach the top…of anything.

    • Bill Bangert Jr

      It seems as if climbers lose their moral compass. How one lives with themselves after completing the journey only to leave behind mortal souls to do it. 40 climbers passed this human…….