Lincoln Hall’s gear on display

A hand-knitted red balaclava which the late mountaineer Lincoln Hall may well have been wearing on the night he was left for dead on Mount Everest is just one item in a new display celebrating his life and achievements.

A collection of items, from mountaineering gear, clothing, and personal effects, has gone on display at the National Museum of Australia, giving an insight into Hall’s incredible life.

Born in Canberra in 1955, he once said “he grew up in Kathmandu”. He was part of the first Australian Everest expedition in 1984, but failed to reach the summit, watching his friends Greg Mortimer and Tim Mcartney-Snape unfurl the first Australian flag.

Twenty-two years later, at the age of 50, he reached the peak but it almost cost him his life.

Left for dead at 8700m after problems with the descent it was believed there was no chance for his survival. His wife Barbara Scanlan received a call from the mountain with the news her husband was dead.

The next morning a small group of climbers were making their way up the mountain when they saw something they thought was a tent.

“I imagine you’re surprised to see me here,” Hall said to them. He had survived the night. And he returned home.

Lincoln Hall
Photo (C) Martin Jones

Hall died in 2012 from mesothelioma, allegedly linked to asbestos exposure as a child when he helped his father build two cubby houses on their Red Hill property in the mid 1960s.

The NMA display tells a “really lovely story”, says Mikhala Harkins, assistant curator, Australian Society and History, who has put the display together.

“Lincoln’s family have been amazing and they’ve provided us with access to a lot of personal items as well as his mountaineering gear,” Ms Harkins says.

“We’ve got a little red balaclava which his mother knitted for him when he started mountaineering back in the 1970s and 80s. He wore it on all his high-altitude climbs.

“It’s worn and well loved and it’s been personalised over the years where she knitted a little  penguin into the top of it for him.

“It’s these human touches that add to his story.”

Also on display are personal effects relating to his Buddhism practice including prayer beads and religious artwork. Ms Harkins says Mr Hall credited his survival in part to his Buddhism, his meditation practice allowing him to focus on the mountain and fight through the hallucinations and effects of the cerebral odema.

Ms Harkins said such a personal display enables people to connect with a story.

“Sometimes it’s hard to connect with people who do grand things and change the world,” she says.

“If it’s somebody who is just a person like you and they’ve done something incredible and miraculous you can connect with that more.

“When you see ordinary people doing extraordinary things, that’s what makes up part of the great Australian story.”

Source: The Canberra Times