At 4.22am on May 21, former Waitaki Boys’ High School student Dean Hall reached the summit of Mount Everest.
After two months actively climbing on the mountain, a year of physical training, nearly $100,000 and over a decade of dreaming, there he was at the top.
“It was so beautiful. Just before dawn we reached the summit. We watched the sun come up, it’s very difficult to describe, it was really emotional” Mr Hall said.
Temperatures were below -32C, the toes on his right foot were completely numb, and he was thirsty and tired, but it had all been worth it.
“I took out my camera and tried to take pictures, [but] the extreme cold of pre-dawn meant after a couple of photos the battery died,” he said.
But he barely cared, as the camera could not have captured the true nature and feeling of the scene.
“There is no way to describe the view, no photo can do it justice. You are so unbelievably high above everything. You’re surrounded by beauty,” he said.
Mr Hall’s family moved to Oamaru about a month after his birth in Timaru, and he attended Oamaru South School, Oamaru Intermediate School and Waitaki Boys’ High School. He left Oamaru at the end of high school in 1998 to join the airforce and study at Otago University – his family later following him to Dunedin.
Growing up in Oamaru, he was always interested in mountaineering then a book about Everest and a Waitaki Boys’ geography trip to Aoraki/Mount Cook further sparked the dream.
“I loved my time at Waitaki Boys’ High School and a lot of it was really helpful, especially the extra-curricular opportunities,” he said.
The former Oamaru resident is the creator of DayZ, an online zombie survival game attracting close to two million players. He now leads a team of developers for Bohemia Interactive in the Czech Republic, creating a zombie video game, ArmA3, with a survival influence.
The recent success of his video game development has put him in a good financial position.
“I thought should I buy a new car? Should I buy a house?” he said. Instead, Mr Hall decided to fulfil a childhood dream to climb Mt Everest. It took six months of planning and a year of physical training, although he had maintained much of his fitness from the army having transferred there from the airforce.
“It’s definitely not something you can jump straight into. I made sure I was in a good place to do it,” he said.
He was in a group of 10 other people from Australia, Iceland, US, Sweden and Venezuela to head to the summit.
The climb was a lot more physical than he had expected.
“It was really physically tiring, just the physical exhaustion that came with it. It reminded me of being in the army,” he said.
About a month-and-a-half into the journey, he realised he was missing small things such as trees and flowers.
“There’s a psychological aspect as well. We saw a few dead bodies and people getting into trouble,” Mr Hall said.
“At base camp, you have a lot of time to think about things. I was away from family, you question why you’re doing it.”
The final push to the summit was the hardest and quitting was “definitely” something Mr Hall considered as he watched others in his group struggle too.
Just before reaching the summit, he was “overcome with emotion”.
“I wasn’t really able to process it, that we were finally there,” he said.
Everything happened very fast after reaching the summit as Mr Hall needed to get back to work as he was to speak in LA at E3, the world’s largest electronic entertainment expo. But actually getting back to reality was a bizarre feeling.
“We’d been warned about post-Everest depression after such an exciting and intense thing,” Mr Hall said. May 29 was the 60th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s conquest of Everest with the New Zealander still very much revered there – something that has rubbed off on to other Kiwis.
So how do you top conquering Mt Everest? Mr Hall would love to go into space but is also interested in the South Pole.
By Rebecca Ryan
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