IMAGE: CLIMBER WHO WAS SAVED
Jamie Mcguinness  /  AP
Australian mountaineer Lincoln Hall is seen inside a tent at Mount Everest's advanced base camp on May 26, the day he was rescued.
NBC News and news services
updated 6/12/2006 10:10:11 AM ET 2006-06-12T14:10:11

A Mount Everest guide said Monday that his team never hesitated to rescue another climber who was near death, even though it meant abandoning their own ascent.

"We just immediately sprung into action ... you have to move quickly up there. If you mess around and start thinking about what to do he could already be gone," Dan Mazur told NBC's "Today" show in an interview along with the man he rescued, Australian Lincoln Hall.

Not only did Mazur not scale the world's highest peak from the northern side, he also failed to get his two paying clients to the top.

The rescue came just days after dozens of climbers left a British climber to die near the summit.

Mazur, his two clients and a Sherpa guide were just two hours from the 29,035-foot peak on the morning of May 26 when they came across Hall.

Hall, who had been on a Russian-led expedition, made it to the summit a day earlier but grew gravely ill from oxygen deprivation during his descent.

His two Sherpa guides tried to help him down, but were eventually forced to leave him in order to save themselves, and Hall was then declared dead.

Survived overnight
But the next day Hall was found sitting on a ledge, having spent the night alone and with no provisions or sleeping bag. He said he didn't remember much except for "some hallucinations I had about being somewhere else."

Mazur, who scaled Everest once before, said shortly after the rescue that "I was shocked to see a guy without gloves, hat, oxygen bottles or sleeping bag at sunrise at 28,200 feet height, just sitting up there."

Mazur said Hall's first words to him were: "I imagine you are surprised to see me here."

"At first I didn't realize it was a person, I just saw the color of his jacket ... I thought it might be a tent," Mazur said Monday. "The last thing on my mind is to think that there might be a person sitting on top of this ridge, it was kind of like a knife-edge ridge, with a small, two-by-two foot space.

"Lincoln was kind of perched on that," Mazur added. "He could have fallen off one side about 8,000 feet, or off the other side about 6,000 feet. He wasn't tied to any rope, he was just sitting up there holding his hands up in the air, he didn't have any gloves on, no hat, his jacket was off."

Mazur, a guide based in Olympia, Wash., said he asked Hall how he had gotten there, to which Hall replied: "I don't know."

Another team walked by
Mazur's team spent the next four hours pulling Hall away from the slopes, giving him bottled oxygen, food and liquids.

Image: Dan Mazur
Binod Joshi  /  AP
Dan Mazur
They also radioed the base camp to tell Hall's surprised team he was still alive.

While Mazur's team was busy assisting Hall, two Italian climbers walked past them toward the summit. When asked to help, they claimed they did not understand English. On his return to base camp, Mazur discovered they did.

"I don't know why they didn't want to stop to help," Mazur said shortly after the rescue. "I hope when I am there, in that state, and someone passes me ... I hope it is someone like me."

Hall's rescue came just days after David Sharp, 34, died May 15, about 1,000 feet into his descent from the summit. Dozens of people walked right past him, unwilling to risk their own ascents.

Conscience guided them
By the time some Sherpas showed up to help get Hall back to base camp, Mazur, his clients and his own Sherpa were too exhausted to attempt the peak. They had no choice but to return without completing their climb.

But Mazur had no regrets.

"Oh yeah, it was worth it," he said shortly after the rescue. "You can always go back to the summit but you only have one life to live. If we had left the man to die, that would have always been on my mind. ... How could you live with yourself?"

Hall was treated for frostbite to his fingers, thumb and toes, slight pulmonary edema and chest infection.

Hall, who is a hiking guide himself, told "Today" that he won't be going back to Everest. "I'm never going to take that type of risk again," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Everest rescue

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