Climber Radioed His Wife Before Dying On Everest -- He Assured Her But Knew There Was No Rescue

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand - Trapped by a blizzard near the summit of Mount Everest, mountain guide Rob Hall stoically accepted his fate when he learned by radio that rescuers would not be able to reach him.

He then called his pregnant wife in New Zealand and told her "not to worry about him too much," reassuring her so she was able to sleep even as his life ebbed.

Hall, 36, had just completed his fifth ascent of the world's highest mountain when he was trapped Friday by howling winds, bitter cold and snow on the way down. He died Saturday night, having stayed with ailing Renton climber Doug Hansen, who died Friday night, rather than try to descend to safety from 28,707 feet.

They were two of eight climbers who perished in the blizzard in one of the worst disasters on Everest since it was first conquered in 1953.

Others killed included Scott Fischer, 40, of Seattle, and Andy Harris, 31, of New Zealand.

Yasuko Namba, 47, of Tokyo, was reported dead by another expedition member after becoming only the second Japanese woman to reach the top of Everest with her climb Friday.

The blizzard also killed three climbers from India who began an ascent from the Chinese side.

Twenty-two people survived. Five of the 11 expeditions that were on Everest when the blizzard struck returned to the base of the mountain yesterday, Nepalese authorities said.

Members of Hall's expedition said today that Sherpa rescuers had clawed their way to within 650 feet of him before turning back Saturday, fearing for their lives in the ferocious storm. They left oxygen and a thermos on a ridge below him.

With Hansen's corpse beside him in a snow hole, Hall used his fading radio to link up with a satellite telephone at the base of the mountain to speak to his wife, Jan Arnold, in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Arnold told reporters today that her husband's last message was "not to worry about him too much."

"He managed to impart some peacefulness to me, because I slept for six or seven hours," said Arnold, who is seven months pregnant with the couple's first child.

"Rob reported he was frostbitten, weak and tired but he was trying to use some of the little oxygen left to get down."

She let go of the last glimmer of hope her husband was alive on Sunday night.

"I thought he might take 10 hours to descend," she said. "But when I heard about three or four hours later that he was still up there and that he was too weak to climb down, my heart sank."

Hall was in radio contact with base camp and described his condition to friends and his wife, who had climbed Everest with him in 1993, said Guy Cotter, another guide.

"Rob took the news stoically that rescue wouldn't happen until the following day, stating he would wait," Cotter said in a faxed message to Hall's Christchurch company, Adventure Consultants.

"After a call to his wife, Jan, he turned off his radio and was not heard from again. An airplane flight over the south summit revealed no sign of movement."

Hall would have known he would not survive another night, Cotter said.

Cotter said that after reaching the summit Friday, Hall and Hansen were the last to descend and were caught at nightfall above the south summit without oxygen, water, a tent or sleeping bags.

On another section of the 29,028-foot-high peak, Seaborne Weathers of Dallas struggled down to about 20,000 feet and was plucked off yesterday in the world's highest-ever helicopter rescue mission.

Fischer was about 1,000 feet below Hansen and Hall when Nepalese Sherpa guides found him and Makalu Gao, the leader of a Japanese expedition. Both were unconscious.

The Sherpas could not carry both men out. They revived Gao and brought him down. They bundled Fischer, gave him oxygen and clipped him to a rope, hoping rescuers could reach him later.

Rescuers "had to chose between the two and they took the one that might live," said Fischer's business partner, Karen Dickinson, in Seattle.

Fischer, a co-founder of Mountain Madness guide company, was leading the fourth Everest Environmental Expedition, in which climbers and Nepalese sherpas planned to pack out trash left by earlier climbs.