14 January 1961|
|Died||11 May 1996
Mount Everest, Nepal
Cause of death
|South Summit of Everest|
|Known for||1996 Everest disaster|
Robert Edwin Hall, MBE (14 January 1961 – 11 May 1996), was a New Zealand mountaineer best known for being head guide of a 1996 Mount Everest expedition in which he, a fellow guide, and two clients perished. A best-selling account of the expedition was given in Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air. At the time of his death, Hall had just completed his fifth summit of Everest, more at that time than any other non-Sherpa mountaineer.
Hall met his future wife, New Zealand medical doctor Jan Arnold, during his Everest summit attempt in 1990. Hall asked Arnold for a date on a climb to Mt. McKinley and later, the two married. In 1993, Rob Hall summited Everest along with Arnold. In the catastrophic 1996 season, Arnold would have accompanied Hall on his Everest expedition, but she was pregnant. Two months after Hall died on the descent from Everest she gave birth to Sarah, their daughter.
Hall grew up in New Zealand where he climbed extensively in the Southern Alps. In 1988, Rob Hall met Gary Ball, who would become his climbing partner and close friend. As with most other mountain climbers, Hall and Gary Ball sought corporate sponsorships to fund their expeditions. The partners decided to climb the Seven Summits, but upped the ante by summiting all seven in seven months. Starting with Everest in May, they climbed the last mountain, Antarctica's Vinson Massif, on 12 December 1990, hours before the deadline. After this success, they realized that, in order to retain their sponsorship, each successive climb would have to be more risky and spectacular, increasing the risk of an accident. Therefore, Hall and Ball decided to quit professional climbing and form a high-altitude guiding business.
Their company, Adventure Consultants, was incorporated in 1992, and quickly became a premier expedition guiding company. That year, they successfully guided six clients to the top of Everest. In October 1993, Ball died of cerebral edema, leaving Hall to run Adventure Consultants on his own. By 1996, Hall had successfully guided thirty-nine climbers up to the top of Everest. Although the price of a guided summit attempt – $65,000 USD – was considerably more expensive than those offered by other expeditions, Hall's reputation for reliability and safety attracted clients from all over the world. Rob Hall was well known in the mountaineering world as the "mountain goat" or the "show".
1996 Everest disaster
Adventure Consultants' 1996 Everest expedition consisted of eight clients and three guides (Hall, Mike Groom and Andy Harris). Among the clients was Jon Krakauer, a journalist on assignment from Outside magazine. Hall had brokered a deal with Outside for advertising space in exchange for a story about the growing popularity of commercial expeditions to Everest.
Shortly after midnight on 10 May 1996, the Adventure Consultants expedition began a summit attempt from Camp IV, atop the South Col. They were joined by climbers from Scott Fischer's Mountain Madness company, as well as expeditions sponsored by the governments of Taiwan and India.
The expeditions quickly encountered delays. Upon reaching the Hillary Step, the climbers discovered that no fixed line had been placed, and they were forced to wait for an hour while the guides installed the ropes (Rob nonetheless "fixed most of the mountain in 1996"). Because some 33 climbers were attempting the summit on the same day, and Hall and Fischer had asked their climbers to stay within 150 m of each other, there were bottlenecks at the single fixed line at the Hillary Step. Many of the climbers had not yet reached the summit by 2:00 pm, the last safe time to turn around in order to reach Camp IV before nightfall.
Hall's Sardar, Ang Dorje Sherpa, and other climbing Sherpas waited at the summit for the clients. Near 3:00 pm, they began their descent. On the way down, Ang Dorje encountered client Doug Hansen above the Hillary Step, and ordered him to descend. Hansen refused. When Hall arrived at the scene, he sent the Sherpas down to assist the other clients, and stated that he would remain to help Hansen, who had run out of supplementary oxygen.
At 5:00 pm, a blizzard struck the Southwest Face of Everest, diminishing visibility and obliterating the trail back to Camp IV. Shortly afterward, Hall radioed for help, saying that Hansen had fallen unconscious but was still alive. Adventure Consultants guide Andy Harris began climbing to the Hillary Step at 5:30 pm with supplementary oxygen and water.
On 11 May, at 4:43am, Hall radioed down and said that he was on the South Summit. He reported that Harris had reached the two men, but that Hansen had died sometime during the night and that Harris was missing as well. Hall was not breathing bottled oxygen, because his regulator was too choked with ice. By 9:00 am, Hall had fixed his oxygen mask, but indicated that his frostbitten hands and feet were making it difficult to traverse the fixed ropes. Later in the afternoon, he radioed to Base Camp, asking them to call his wife, Jan Arnold, on the satellite phone. During this last communication, he reassured her that he was reasonably comfortable and told her, "Sleep well my sweetheart. Please don't worry too much." Shortly thereafter, he died, and his body was found on 23 May by mountaineers from the IMAX expedition.
Jon Krakauer published an article in Outside and a book called Into Thin Air shortly after the disaster. In both, he speculated that the delays caused by the fixed ropes, as well as the guides' decision not to enforce the 2:00 pm turnaround time, were responsible for the deaths. Krakauer was criticized by Hall's widow for publishing their last conversation. Hall's radio transmission from the summit ridge was patched through and connected to his wife at home. The transcription of Hall's final conversation with his wife was reprinted in the book.
The series Seconds From Disaster published an episode about the 1996 incident called "Into the death zone". Rob Hall's ordeal is heavily covered in the episode.
The Neil Finn song "The Climber" was inspired by Rob Hall's death.
Another documentary directed by David Breashears, who was on Everest in 1996, "Storm Over Everest" aired on PBS-Frontline in 2008.
List of major climbs
- 1990 – Seven Summits (the Bass list)
- 1992 – K2 (Scott Fischer, Ed Viesturs, and Charley Mace helped Hall save his partner Gary Ball from edema)
- 1992 – Mount Everest
- 1993 – Dhaulagiri (uncertain if summited or not – Hall's partner Gary Ball died on mountain)
- 1993 – Mount Everest (with his wife, Jan Arnold)
- 1994 – Mount Everest
- 1994 – Lhotse
- 1994 – Cho Oyu
- 1994 – Makalu
- 1995 – Cho Oyu
- 1996 – Mount Everest (died on descent)
- Claudia Glenn Dowling (2001-05-14). "After Everest". Time Warner. Retrieved 2012-05-21.
- "Meet our team, Dr Jan Arnold". INP Medical Clinic. Retrieved 2012-05-21.
- "Statistics of 7 summits climber Ball". www.7summits.com. Retrieved 2011-08-12.
- PBS Frontline, "Storm Over Everest", aired 13 May 2008
- Vom Leben verabschiedet, Der Spiegel, Joachim Hoelzgen, 23. Februar 1998
- Rob Hall Biography
- Rob Hall Biography
- Rob Hall Biography at 7summits.com
- Adventure Consultants
- 2013: Portrait Painting of Rob Hall