He should have been the latest victim at the hands of the world's tallest summit.

Another number to add to one of the deadliest tolls in Mount Everest's history.

But instead, Australian climber Gilian Lee was met with a miracle. A stroke of luck at 7500ft that ultimately saved his life.

After collapsing and falling unconscious on his way to the summit, Lee thought his dream — and life — was over.


"My body just switched off," Lee told Channel 7 reporter Matt Doran during an exclusive interview that will air on Sunday Night.

Despite coughing "continuously" and being encouraged to turn back during his attempt to scale the summit, Lee refused.

Canberra man Gilian Lee had to be evacuated from Mount Everest after falling unconscious. Photo / Supplied
Canberra man Gilian Lee had to be evacuated from Mount Everest after falling unconscious. Photo / Supplied

The Canberra local had made a similar attempt three times prior to his 2019 expedition, and after being unsuccessful in 2015, 2017 and 2018 — turning back a fourth time was no option.

"How do you say no … how do you cancel your dream?" Lee said of his decision to keep climbing.

Lee had been active on social media and his blog account during the lead-up to climbing Everest, with an ambitious goal to climb 14 mountains higher than 8000 metres without supplemental oxygen or drugs.

"I have put a lot of pressure onto myself," he wrote the day before he collapsed, noting he had been suffering from a "killer sore throat" and "persistent chest infection".

"I am running out of [money] to keep chasing this dream."

According to the ABC, Italian mountaineer Jean-Marie Rossi was on the same expedition as Lee, and said he saw him deteriorate quickly.


"[He had] so much trouble with his acclimatisation," Rossi said.

"[He was] always coughing, continuously.

In an interview with The Atlantic, rock climber Alex Honnold said when it comes to scaling any summit — a mountaineer needs to know when to quit. It's a rule, however, most adventure-minded people are not good at following

That word of advice is something Lee struggled to follow — even when he was just minutes away from death.

When Lee was discovered, the climbers used ropes and a yak to bring him down and take him to hospital in Nepal.

In the days after his rescue, the climber spoke of how things went wrong at 7500ft in a matter of moments.


"Something went amiss on the summit push after C2 (Camp 2)," he said on a tweet in May.

"In hospital … surprisingly mum is here … which is good to get medical advice.

"Body wrecked with liver problems, no phone and vision damage. Piecing (together) what happened. Rest."

Lee's dramatic rescue has come amid a horror season on Mt Everest, which has been marred by reports of human traffic jams as a record number of climbers scramble for the top.

Eleven people have died in little more than two weeks after poor weather cut the climbing window in half, leaving mountaineers waiting in long queues to the summit, risking exhaustion and running out of oxygen for that moment of glory.

A long queue of mountain climbers line a path on Mount Everest desperate to reach the top. Photo / Twitter
A long queue of mountain climbers line a path on Mount Everest desperate to reach the top. Photo / Twitter

This year's Everest toll is the deadliest since 2014-15 when huge earthquakes triggered devastating avalanches.


While more than 300 climbers have died on Everest since it was first conquered in 1953, this year has been one of the deadliest seasons on record.

Horror footage and photos in the 'death zone' of Everest during the Spring climbing season have shown mountaineers — some with minimal experience — crushed together in a "human traffic jam" as they battle the elements in an attempt to reach the summit. The "death zone" is the final phase of the ascent from Camp Four at 8000 metres to the 8850-metre peak.

Experts say the increase in fatalities this year stems from poor weather cutting down the climbing window, leaving mountaineers waiting in long queues to the summit at risk of exhaustion and running out of oxygen.

The other issue is the amount climbers on the mountain, as the Nepalese government issued a record 381 permits to scale Everest this year despite a rising climber death toll.

However, Nepalese government minister Gokul Prasad Baskota said the congestion photo that went viral online wasn't due to the mismanagement of permits but rather the inadequate training of some climbers.

When it comes to tackling Everest, there are no rules when it comes to leaving struggling climbers behind. Many choose to forge ahead in an attempt to ensure their own survival, meaning those in trouble are left behind.


This week, melting snow has uncovered even more bodies than originally thought, after a Nepal government expedition located four more dead bodies near the summit.

Tourism Department official Danduraj Ghimire said on Wednesday the four bodies were exposed by melting snow and were carried to base camp and then flown to a hospital in Kathmandu for identification.

The Nepal government expedition also removed 11,000 kilograms of garbage from the mountain, which is usually accumulated over the spring season which is known as the best time to climb.