Looking after Lincoln Hall's legacy

It is the rock that famous mountaineer Lincoln Hall and his wife Barbara would sit on and watch the sunset, a rock they walked by with their dogs, a place they took other famous mountaineers to and somewhere they enjoyed with their now grown-up children Dylan and Dorje.

Now, this spectacular slab of sandstone on the edge of the Jamison Valley in Wentworth Falls and unofficially called Flat Rock or Honeymoon Rock, will be formally renamed Lincolns Rock in his honour.

Hall’s widow, Barbara Hall, who lives near the site, is delighted that the gesture has been made by the Geographic Names Board and passed by Blue Mountains City Council who owns the land.

“I think actually Lincoln would be really chuffed,” she said.

Like a terrible but random lottery, Lincoln Hall, who famously survived a night near the summit of Everest after being pronounced dead, lost his battle for life in March last year from the effects of exposure to asbestos as a child after playing with the off cuts from a cubby house he made with his dad.

Wife, Barbara, shared 26 years of her life with the man mountain and has spent the past year coming to terms with her husband’s death.

“It wasn’t any easier to deal with the reality of it but some people said to me that those extra years he had when he came so close to death before, it enabled him to see his sons grow up, see the people they became . . . (but) it was so unexpected when it came, the cause.”

He was treated in early 2011 for TB— an assumption made because of his exposure to people with the condition during his expeditions, before a biopsy five months later confirmed it was mesothelioma — cancer of the lungs.

“Time was ticking by and he was terribly sick but it was something nobody ever expected,” she said.

For a man who lived such an adventurous life — climbing those 7000m plus peaks because of his heightened lung capacity, it seemed tragic it was his lungs that gave up in the end.

“He had a naturally large lung capacity —and was so fit and so strong and that maybe kept it at bay,” Mrs Hall said.

It’s only the second time Mrs Hall has felt able to talk about her husband publicly since his death 12 months ago. She gave a speech recently to the Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia where she has accepted a role as patron and is also continuing the family’s commitment to the Australian Himalayan Foundation (AHF) raising money for needy schools and better medical care and rescue services for Sherpas.

Together the Halls established the AHF Schools for the Himalayas Program which has raised thousands of dollars for schools in Nepal. Mrs Hall is now on the AHF board. 

Mrs Hall said asbestos researchers are expecting thousands of cases to be uncovered over the next 30 years.

“Lincoln remembered the caterpillar of dust and playing with those off cuts. He cut them on his father’s bench.”

Their sons are now “busy with their friends and their lives”. Dorje, 21, is starting a science degree this year and Dylan, 24, is completing an arts degree and is also a junior ambassador with the AHF. After their adventurous childhood “they did think they would take up mountaineering recreationally until 2006,” she said. They are however, keen to be fathers, because their own experience of family has been such a positive one.

“We took them everywhere — we climbed Mount Kinabalu in Borneo when they were 12 and 15, we went to New Zealand with them when Dorje was only three,” she said.

“We had such a happy family life and they did everything with us, we did so much as a family.”

The boys had inherited her husband’s wicked sense of humour, she said and humour was always “Lincoln’s default mechanism” — something the world discovered with his famous line to the rescuers who discovered him on May 26, 2006. 

It was on that morning, after he spent the night at 8600m, when he deadpanned: “I imagine you are surprised to see me here”.

The wake at his Wentworth Falls home turned into a celebration but not before a man with a rather raspy voice from his ordeal called to confirm he was really alive. As he recounted in his book Dead Lucky, Barbara Hall had asked ‘“You’re Lincoln?” not completely convinced, and he replied “It’s me. Lincoln Ross Hall of Wentworth Falls, I hope you haven’t started looking for another husband.”’

That was classic Lincoln, she said, the reason why so many people loved him was that sense of fun.

Fellow climber and friend, Lucas Trihey of Leura, shared many adventures with the man who had made the Blue Mountains his home for two decades. In a tribute published in the Blue Mountains Gazette after his death last year he wrote: “Lincoln was a larger-than-life character. He was often so calm and relaxed that many of the friends who had never seen him in the mountains wondered how he managed to get himself organised enough to climb the hardest peaks on earth.

“In 1995 we worked together as safety crew and climbing consultants during the filming of The Edge, the Imax movie about the Blue Mountains and the Wollemi Pine. I have great memories of rigging a camera platform with Lincoln high above the 50m deep slot in remote Claustral Canyon. As we wrestled an aluminium ladder across the chasm he’d be cracking appalling puns and entertaining the crew with good humour. Lincoln knew as well as any of us the consequences of a mistake in this work yet his relaxed presence had a calming effect on us all.”

Many people mythologised her husband. Barbara Hall remembers fondly the day she went climbing with Lincoln and while he was up high, scaling a rock, climbers down below were debating whether it was “really him”.

“Is that Lincoln, Lincoln Hall?” one climber asked.” “No, not big enough,” the other climber had said.

As Lucas Trihey’s eulogy said: “Lincoln’s tall frame and taller presence will be sadly missed but will be remembered fondly by all who knew him.”

And for those who did not know him, there’s a lookout down Little Switzerland Drive in Wentworth Falls awaiting a visit.

Australian Himalayan Foundation chairman Simon Balderstone proposed the lookout’s name and it has been endorsed by the Blue Mountains World Heritage Advisory Committee and Gundungurra Aboriginal Heritage Association. 

For more information about asbestos-related diseases contact The Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia on 9637 8759 or visit the website www.adfa.org.au.

Australian mountaineer Lincoln Hall with his wife Barbara at the Radisson Hotel lobby in Kathmandu in 2006. Hall, 56, one of Australia's best know mountaineers, died in Sydney on March 20, 2012 from mesothelioma.

Australian mountaineer Lincoln Hall with his wife Barbara at the Radisson Hotel lobby in Kathmandu in 2006. Hall, 56, one of Australia's best know mountaineers, died in Sydney on March 20, 2012 from mesothelioma.

Mountaineer Lincoln Hall at the lookout which now bears his name.  Photo: Dallas Kilponen, Sydney Morning Herald.

Mountaineer Lincoln Hall at the lookout which now bears his name. Photo: Dallas Kilponen, Sydney Morning Herald.