His death was announced on the Web site of the Australian Himalayan Foundation, which supports improvements in education, health care and conservation in the Himalayan region. Mr. Hall had helped found it. Australian newspapers said he died of mesothelioma, which was attributed to childhood exposure to asbestos.
In 1984, Mr. Hall was part of the first Australian expedition to ascend Everest as it traced a new path for climbers not carrying oxygen. The expedition survived an avalanche, and two of his companions achieved the summit, but Mr. Hall did not, turning back a few hours short of the top when it became clear that to continue would have put him in grave physical danger.
“To survive as a mountaineer, the most important skill is knowing when to draw the line, and I could see it then as clearly as if it were painted in the snow,” he once explained.
Twenty-two years later, he had an opportunity to salve his disappointment when he joined another Everest expedition, one that included a 15-year-old, who was aiming to become the youngest person to reach the top of the world, and filmmakers, who were making a documentary of the attempt. The teenager did not make it — he turned back when his breathing became difficult — but this time Mr. Hall did.
Mr. Hall spent 20 minutes at the summit, but shortly after he began his descent he was struck by a severe form of high altitude sickness, cerebral edema: a swelling of the brain that induces crippling lethargy, hallucinations and other symptoms. Maddened, by his account, he turned and tried to reclimb the summit, but the sherpas who had accompanied him tied him and began wrestling him down the mountain. After two hours, Mr. Hall was showing no signs of life, and the exhausted sherpas, in touch by radio with the expedition leader, were told to save themselves.
“Before you go down, please cover him with rocks,” they were told, Mr. Hall later said. “Fortunately, at that particular spot there were no rocks.”
“I was shocked to see a guy without gloves, hat, oxygen bottles or sleeping bag at sunrise at 28,200-feet height, just sitting up there,” the group’s leader, Daniel Mazur, an American, told The Associated Press a few days after the rescue. Mr. Hall had greeted him this way: “I imagine you are surprised to see me here.”
Mr. Hall was born in Canberra, Australia’s capital, on Dec. 19, 1955, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. A high school physical education teacher took him on his first climb, to Booroomba Rocks in the Namadgi National Park near Canberra.
He became one of Australia’s leading climbers, ascending peaks in the Himalayas, New Zealand and Antarctica, and a prominent writer on mountaineering.
His books include “White Limbo” (1985), an account of the first Everest expedition; “The Loneliest Mountain” (1989), a diary of Mr. Hall’s trip, with 10 others, to Antarctica and their ascent — the first ever — to the peak of Mount Minto, higher than 13,000 feet; and the appropriately named account of his nearly fatal climb, “Dead Lucky: Life After Death on Mount Everest” (2007).
In 2008, a documentary about his experience, “Left for Dead: Miracle on Everest,” was shown on the National Geographic Channel.
The Herald reported that Mr. Hall is survived by his wife, Barbara Scanlan; his father, Alan Hall; two sisters, Michele and Julia; and two sons, Dylan and Dorje. A lawyer for Mr. Hall told the newspaper that Mr. Hall was exposed to asbestos in 1965 and 1966 when he and his father built playhouses on their property using asbestos-cement flat sheets.
“Death is not as black and white as it seems,” Mr. Hall told an audience in Sacramento, Calif., in 2008. “In Tibetan Buddhism, death is interpreted as consciousness leaving your body in separate stages over a period of time. It’s different if you’re run over by a truck, but if you’re just dying, say, on Everest, there are stages of death. I ticked the first two of those eight stages, and for some reason that process reversed. So I think saying I died is probably more accurate than saying I didn’t.”