Adventurers of the Year 2006

Dan Mazur: Hero on Everest

By now the outline of Dan Mazur's story is well known: While guiding two clients up Mount Everest on the morning of May 26, the summit already in sight, Mazur, 46, came across a man, alone and unroped, tottering on a ridge at 28,000 feet (8,534 meters). Lincoln Hall had been left for dead by his own guides, stripped of his pack and supplemental oxygen, but when Mazur approached he was still very much alive. For the next two hours, Mazur furiously organized a high-altitude rescue. By the time it was in motion, a midday storm was looming. Instead of pushing for the summit, Mazur turned his clients back down the mountain.

What's not so well known is how troubled Mazur feels today: by other climbers who passed Hall but declined to stop, by guilt that his clients paid thousands of dollars and trained for months only to be denied a summit, and by the marked drop in his Himalaya climbing enrollments, as if nobody wants to hire a guide who backed off the mountain. In spite of it all, Mazur would not change what he did. "I believe all of us have the ability to stop and help others," he says, "and also the ability to keep going. The question is, How do you want to live your life? What do you want to do? Who are you?"

A tough question, to be sure, but we have at least a partial answer: Who you are, Dan Mazur, is a guy who did the right thing when it mattered, a guy who sacrificed a goal for a life. And while that may not be the only definition of a hero, it certainly isn't a bad one.