Sometimes getting to the top
of the world isn’t the most important thing in life; it can be the split second
decisions on the journey there that can change your life forever.
At least that’s what Andrew
In 2006 he didn’t achieve his
lifelong dream of making it to the top of Mount Everest, despite being just 200
metres from the summit. Instead, he helped save a dying man’s life.
On Friday Feb. 22 Brash will
be the keynote speaker at the Canadian Avalanche Foundation’s Whistler Gala
Dinner ,with an important message about his Everest adventure that made
headlines around the world.
“The message is that the
summit is important but it’s not everything — there are more important things
in life,” said this down-to-earth junior high school teacher from his Calgary
home this week.
By all accounts, Brash should
have made the summit that fateful day. The weather was clear and calm — perfect
weather for a summit attempt — his team was feeling physically well, and he had
the determination to finally realize this lifelong goal.
And then he met 50-year-old
It was dawn, May 26 on the
North Ridge of Mt. Everest, just below the Second Step at 28,000 feet — almost
the top of the world.
Hall, who had become
extremely sick on his decent from the summit, had spent the night on the side
of Everest. He had been left there by a group of Sherpas who had been ordered
to return to camp.
Amazingly, 12 hours later the
Australian climber was awake and somewhat coherent, though still a very sick
man. When Brash saw him for the first time he was slurring his words, with no
gloves on, little equipment and his down suit unzipped to his waist.
“I thought ‘he’s going to die
in the next couple of hours,’” recalled Brash, who couldn’t imagine how they
were going to get Hall out of that situation and to safety.
“You’re really far up and
along a horizontal ridge for a fair ways.”
Brash’s group, which included
team leader Dan Mazur, British climber Myles Osborne and Jangbu Sherpa, never
had a conversation about abandoning Lincoln and making a bid for the top. They
never made a conscious decision to sit with Lincoln, offering their fluids and
oxygen, coaxing him to put his gloves on his severely frostbitten hands. They
just did it. For more than five hours.
And as the hours slipped by,
so too did their chances at reaching the summit of Mount Everest.
“I guess that deep down we
knew we weren’t going to summit right away,” said the 39-year-old Grade 9
By noon, however, Hall had
made a comeback of sorts. The fluids, oxygen and encouragement had revived him.
He was able to stand up and his team had arrived to help him down the mountain.
It was too late, however, for
Five hours on the side of
Everest without moving forward can take its toll.
“You’re quite out of it
yourself,” remembered Brash. “It’s all dreamy and kind of a hazy feeling. It’s
easy to see how people die, if you just sit around for a while, you get so
lethargic you just sit there.”
It was a bitter descent for
The event, perhaps, would not
have made headlines in Australia and Canada, had it not been for another
tragedy which had unfolded days earlier just 500 feet below them.
Thirty-four year old David
Sharp also got sick on Everest but he never made it down the mountain like
Hall. Forty climbers passed the sick Englishman on their way to the summit, and
hours later found him still alive on their descent. He later died in that spot.
Ten days later Brash and his
team passed Sharp on their way to the top that day, never realizing that his
death was drawing stinging criticisms in the climbing community, not the least
of from the late Sir Edmund Hillary who blasted the climbers that passed Sharp
on the way to the summit, more focused on their personal achievements than
helping a man in distress.
Brash is careful to not pass
judgment on his fellow climbers.
“They must have decided that
they couldn’t (help), is what I think,” he said. “They obviously thought about
it. Apparently people gave him oxygen and nothing was happening… It would have
been a multi-hour job to do anything… It was a judgment call.”
Just as it was a judgment
call to sit with Hall and help him recover when the odds were not in his
“We’ll never know about David
Sharp because nobody did that, nobody spent the time to see if they could get
him to make a comeback or not,” said Brash.
“I think that’s what makes it
such a powerful, kind of tragic story I guess — just not knowing.”
On the way down that day
Brash choked back the bitterness of his failed attempt — something he had
dreamed about throughout his 20-year climbing career.
The bitterness has since been
replaced after getting to know Hall and realizing just how important he is to
“Having to give up the summit
for me was a big deal (but) to realize how much more important it was for
Lincoln to be safe and down — that was a life changing event,” said Brash.
The event hasn’t stopped him
from dreaming about the top.
He’s going back to Everest at
the end of March, with the hopes of summiting with 2006 team leader Dan Mazur
and the Sherpas who helped him the first time.
He is focusing on that part
between the Second Step and the top: “That’s what I’m really looking forward
As for that fateful spot near
the Second Step that changed the course of his 2006 expedition, Brash said he
will not be lingering over it too long.
“I’m sure it’s all going to
come right back but I’m going to move right on.”
Brash will be presenting
‘Rescue on Everest’ on Friday Feb. 22 at the Canadian Avalanche Foundation
Whistler Gala Dinner.
This father of two young
girls has another connection to Whistler, having married Jennifer Chaplin,
whose parents were part of the old Chaplinville community off of Alta Lake
The evening will be co-hosted
by foundation members Justin Trudeau and Chris Stethem and includes dinner and
a silent auction at the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler Mountain.
Tickets are $175 each (or
$1,500 per table of ten). The event kicks off at 6:45 p.m. with cocktails
followed by dinner and the Everest presentation.
Among other things, the
Canadian Avalanche Foundation supports education and public avalanche awareness
and safety, and programs that prevent or minimize avalanche risk to the public.