The year was 1996, and sadly, eight mountaineers lost their lives on Everest, the tallest mountain on the planet. The new film Everest, now out on DVD, tells the story of mountaineer Rob Hall. His daughter, Sarah Arnold-Hall, chats with us about mountains and the father she never knew.
Sarah Arnold-Hall never met her father. Her mother, Jan Arnold, was pregnant with Sarah at the time of Rob Hall’s tragic death in 1996, but due to technology, he was able to speak to Arnold before he died, and told her he wanted to name his daughter Sarah. Arnold did.
Though you’d think Arnold-Hall would steer clear of mountains, she’s had some surprising, even brave experiences, like trekking to Everest’s base camp when she was just 10. We asked her what being there meant to her.
“Over the years, the experience has become more and more special to me and I have formed an emotional connection to the mountain and to Nepal. It was a moving experience as I met the Sherpas and other climbers who knew Rob. It dawned on me that people saw my father as someone who was respected and loved both in the Himalayas and back at home in New Zealand. I would definitely like to go back to Nepal and base camp, to see Everest as an adult, possibly to rebuild my father Rob’s memorial, which is likely to have fallen during the devastating April 2015 Nepal earthquakes,” said Arnold-Hall.
Having endured such a tragic loss, we couldn’t help but ask her why she thinks people still climb Everest in spite of the risks.
“As the tallest peak in the world, it presents a challenge that draws people like no other mountain. I imagine that standing on top of the world and realizing that you got there with your own two feet must be unbelievable. I think that for some people, the risks actually add to why they want to climb it rather than detract from it — if there were no risk, it wouldn’t be the prized challenge that it is,” said Arnold-Hall.
Though she felt like her mother had filled her in on all the details about her father’s life, she claims that watching the movie made her even more proud of his accomplishments.
“As I grew up, I had been told most of what the movie depicts, but seeing it reenacted in front of me reinforced the impressions that I had from my childhood — that Rob was a gentle person, a leader. It hasn’t altered who I perceived him to be, but through [this] portrayal, it expresses what other people thought of him, and it’s special to me to hear that people thought he was a generous, kind person. I am proud to be his daughter,” she said.
Arnold-Hall hopes that watching the film Everest will inspire people to do what they love. “Many of the people in the film were not professional climbers, but instead experienced, passionate yet still amateur climbers, who through the guided expeditions had the opportunity to climb Everest. I hope that it shows that with enough experience, a regular person can attempt something as challenging as Everest. I also hope that it gives some insight into why people want to go to Everest — the people, the culture, the beautiful country of Nepal.”
We couldn’t help but wonder if Arnold-Hall thinks she’s inherited any of her father’s traits. She said, “My mum says that my nature is like Rob’s, in my approach to life and people. I think that I have the drive and passion to achieve my goals like he had, but it’s not directed towards mountaineering at this point in my life. I am different from him in the sense that his whole life was immersed in mountain life from a young age, whereas I don’t have one specific passion that I have followed through from childhood. Instead, I have many interests that are changing and developing.”
Though she did climb Mount Kilimanjaro with her mother, she doesn’t think she’ll be doing a ton of mountain climbing in the future. Instead, she describes the perfect adventure as taking a trip to Europe with friends to take in the “culture, architecture, fashion, art and history.”