Beck Weathers Beck Weathers – Texas Monthly

Beck Weathers Beck Weathers – Texas Monthly

Beck Weathers

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Seaborn Beck Weathers (born December 16, 1946) is an American pathologist from Texas . He survived the 1996 Mount Everest disaster , which was covered in Jon Krakauer ‘s book Into Thin Air (1997), its film adaptation Into Thin Air: Death on Everest (1997), and the film Everest (2015). [1] Weathers’ autobiographical book, titled Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest (2000) includes his ordeal, but also describes his life before and afterward, as he focused on saving his damaged relationships. [2]


  • 1 Early life and personal life
  • 2 Mount Everest
  • 3 After Everest
  • 4 In media
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links

Early life and personal life[ edit ]

Weathers was born in a military family. He attended college in Wichita Falls , Texas, married, and had two children. In 1986, he enrolled in a mountaineering course and later decided to try to climb the Seven Summits . He considered Richard Bass , the first man to climb the Seven Summits, an “inspiration” who made summitting Everest seem possible for “regular guys”. In 1993, Weathers was making a guided ascent on Vinson Massif , where he encountered Sandy Pittman , whom he would later meet on Everest in 1996.

Mount Everest[ edit ]

Main article: 1996 Mount Everest disaster

In May 1996, Weathers was one of eight clients being guided on Mount Everest by Rob Hall of Adventure Consultants. Weathers, who had recently had radial keratotomy surgery, soon discovered that he was blinded by the effects of high altitude and overexposure to ultraviolet radiation, [3] high altitude effects which had not been well documented at the time. On May 10, the day of the summit assault, Hall, after being told Weathers could not see, wanted him to descend to Camp IV immediately. He, however, believed his vision might improve when the sun came out, so Hall had advised him to wait on the Balcony (27,000 ft, on the 29,000 ft Everest) until Hall came back down to descend with him.

Hall, while assisting another client to reach the summit, did not return, and later died further up on the mountain. Weathers eventually began descending with guide Michael Groom, who was short-roping him. When the blizzard struck, Weathers and 10 other climbers became disoriented in the storm, and could not find Camp IV. By the time there was a break in the storm several hours later, Weathers had been so weakened that he and four other men and women were left there so the others could summon help. Anatoli Boukreev , a guide on another expedition led by Scott Fischer , came and rescued several climbers, but during that time, Weathers had stood up and disappeared into the night. The next day, another client on Hall’s team, Stuart Hutchison, and two Sherpas arrived to check on the status of Weathers and fellow client Yasuko Namba . Believing Weathers and Namba were both near death and would not make it off the mountain alive, Hutchison and the others left them and returned to Camp IV.

Weathers spent the night in an open bivouac , in a blizzard, with his face and hands exposed. When he awakened, he managed to walk down to Camp IV under his own power. His fellow climbers said that his frozen hand and nose looked and felt as if they were made of porcelain , and they did not expect him to survive. With that assumption, they only tried to make him comfortable until he died, but he survived another freezing night alone in a tent, unable to eat, drink, or keep himself covered with the sleeping bags he was provided with. His cries for help could not be heard above the blizzard, and his companions were surprised to find him alive and coherent the following day.

Weathers was later helped to walk, on frozen feet, to a lower camp, where he was a subject of one of the highest altitude medical evacuations ever performed by helicopter . [4] Following his helicopter evacuation from the Western Cwm , his right arm was amputated halfway between the elbow and wrist. All five fingers on his left hand were amputated, as well as parts of both feet. His nose was amputated and reconstructed with tissue from his ear and forehead. [5]

After Everest[ edit ]

Weathers published his book about his Everest experience and his life, Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest (2000), [2] and continues to practice medicine and deliver motivational speeches. He lives in Dallas, Texas . [6]

In media[ edit ]

Richard Jenkins portrayed Weathers in the 1997 television film Into Thin Air: Death on Everest . Josh Brolin later did so in the 2015 film Everest . Weathers is a character in the opera Everest by Joby Talbot ; at the world premiere the role was created by bass Kevin Burdette . [7]

References[ edit ]

  1. ^ “Profile of Weathers and other survivors, with audio interviews” . National Geographic. Archived from the original on 2016-01-15.

  2. ^ a b Weathers, Beck (2000). Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest .
  3. ^ Left for Dead review” . Salon. April 25, 2000.
  4. ^ “Helicopter on Everest makes History” . Retrieved 27 January 2017.
  5. ^ Into Thin Air, pg. 352.
  6. ^ “After Everest: The Complete Story Of Beck Weathers” . Men’s Journal.
  7. ^ “REVIEW: Dallas Opera’s stunning world premiere of ‘Everest. Retrieved 27 January 2017.

External links[ edit ]

  • National Geographic – profile of Weathers and other survivors, with audio interviews
  • TED – Medical Miracle on Everest – Ken Kamler – the only doctor on the mountain discusses how Weathers survived.
Authority control Edit this at Wikidata
  • WorldCat Identities
  • BNF : cb16996849d (data)
  • GND : 122465628
  • ISNI : 0000 0001 1993 6800
  • LCCN : n00084335
  • NDL : 00865660
  • SUDOC : 190120711
  • VIAF : 170949027

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      Beck Weathers was joined at a news conference upon his return from Everest to Dallas by his son, Beck, and his wife, Peach. He faced several operations to amputate his right hand, fashion a mitt from his left hand and create a new nose.(1996 File Photo - Staff)

      Beck Weathers was joined at a news conference upon his return from Everest to Dallas by his son, Beck, and his wife, Peach. He faced several operations to amputate his right hand, fashion a mitt from his left hand and create a new nose.
      (1996 File Photo – Staff)

      He was already dead — of that, he was certain. Ice covered his face. His right hand was frozen solid in the shape of a claw. And yet, he felt no pain. None at all.

      He must be dead.

      Nevertheless, as Dr. Beck Weathers lay in the snow high up on Mount Everest, he did feel something: His heart ached with deep regret as a vision came to him of his wife, Peach, and two children waiting for him at home in Dallas. For her part, Peach felt she had already lost her husband years before.

      A pathologist, Weathers worked long hours in his medical practice. That would have been fine if he’d spent his remaining free time with his family. But for the last eight years, he’d become obsessed with mountain climbing. Nearly every waking hour that he wasn’t working, he spent training and preparing for his next summit.

      Peach had come to a decision. When Weathers returned from Everest, she would tell him she wanted a divorce.

      The story of what happened to Weathers and his expedition on May 10, 1996, was made famous by writer Jon Krakauer’s best-selling book Into Thin Air. Eight climbers in the expedition died.

      Now the story has been made into an Imax film, Everest, which will open Thursday night in Imax 3-D and select locations before showing in wide release Sept. 25. In the movie, Josh Brolin portrays Weathers.

      Fighting depression

      Most of his life, Weathers suffered from severe depression. He eventually made a discovery that changed his life: If he drove his body to exhaustion, he didn’t feel depressed anymore.

      When his kids were young, he would take them to the YMCA of the Rockies in Colorado. One year, he signed up for three days’ worth of mountain climbing classes. He was hooked.

      Training for mountain climbing was the strenuous physical exertion that kept his depression at bay. The bigger the climb, the greater the training required.


      Around this time, Dick Bass, a colorful Dallas character, became the first man to complete the Seven Summit challenge by climbing the highest peak on each of the seven continents. Bass was 55 when he completed his quest.

      Beck was in his early 40s when he started the Seven Summits. Over the next eight years or so, he completed five. If he finished Everest, the hardest, he would have only one other. It would cap a life of achievement.

      As his list of accomplishments grew, however, he became more and more detached and withdrawn from those who should have been closest to him — his family. As he prepared for Everest, he was the most successful but loneliest man he knew.

      Blinded in the snow

      May 10, 1996, started as a clear, sunny day.

      Weathers was one of eight climbers guided by Rob Hall, a well-known, experienced guide from New Zealand. Hall’s group was one of three on Everest that day.

      But the higher Weathers climbed, the less he could see.

      It was an unexpected effect of radial keratotomy surgery a year and a half earlier to correct his myopia. It turned out that the high altitude left him nearly blind and forced him to stop at 27,600 feet, about 1,600 feet from the summit.

      Hall, his guide, made Weathers promise to stay where he was until Hall returned after helping the others to the summit. Hall vowed he would help Weathers back down the mountain.

      Because of the large number of climbers, the trip to the summit took longer than scheduled. Hall was still near the summit, helping one last straggler to the top, when a ferocious storm suddenly moved over them.

      With nightfall, the storm intensified.

      Weathers found himself trudging down with a group of climbers trying to find the tents from their highest camp site, from which they had embarked that morning.

      But they could see nothing in the swirling snow and wind and decided to stop and huddle for warmth.

      Several of the climbers eventually made it to the tents that night. A Russian climber, who had returned to the tents before the storm, helped rescue three others.

      Another climber, accompanied by two sherpas, returned the next morning but decided that Weathers and another climber, a Japanese woman, were too far gone to save.

      They reported that Weathers and the woman were dead — news that was eventually relayed to Weathers’ wife.

      Somehow, spurred by the vision of his family, Weathers managed to stumble into camp and the relative refuge of the tents. His fellow climbers took note of his frozen limbs and his face blackened and destroyed by the cold.

      They concluded he would not live through the night. They helped him into a tent and left him alone with blankets and hot tea.

      Against all odds, Weathers survived the night, but when he awoke, several of the climbers had already left. Finally, with help from members of the Imax film crew that had come along on the expedition, Weathers made it to a lower camp, from which he was evacuated by helicopter.

      A changed man

      Mount Everest changed his life. Of that, Weathers is certain.

      “If you can’t learn something from dying, then you are seriously a slow learner,” he said last week, chuckling.

      Sitting in his study at his North Dallas home, Weathers, now 68, talked matter-of-factly about the eight operations to deal with his physical wounds.

      Doctors amputated his right hand. They turned his left hand into a mitt with two fingers and a thumb — enough to allow him to do everything he needs to do, including drive.

      Later, doctors fashioned a new nose to replace the hole left in the middle of his face.

      He still works as a pathologist at Medical City Dallas Hospital, but he spends more time now with Peach. “We’re now just like a pair of old shoes growing old together comfortably,” he said.

      His grown children live nearby, and he’s recently become a grandfather who dotes on his baby granddaughter.

      He knows that he should not be here today.

      “When I was out on the ice in the storm, I was unconscious and in hypothermic coma for 15 hours,” he said. “Why I woke up, I don’t truly know.”

      He lives with the lesson he learned on Everest imparted by the vision that came to him of his wife, son and daughter.

      “You can love somebody immeasurably and it’s just not enough. You’ve got to be there for them. And if you’re not there, you force them to make a life without you,” he said.

      “I had alienated my wife, Peach, and I was estranged somewhat from my kids,” he says. “So I came back from Everest with no other choice other than to change my life.

      “The path I was on would have ended in a bad way. It changed my priorities. Life is good.”

      Q&A with Beck Weathers:

      Beck Weathers shared his thoughts on the new film Everest with staff writer David Tarrant.

      Q: What did you think when you heard that the film was being made about the ill-fated climb you were on?

      A: When they came to me years ago and talked about making this film, I didn’t think they could do it. I’d never seen a good mountaineering movie. The [Everest] screenwriters had good material to work with, and then you need a director who’s willing to make the story real and demand that every detail be just as it was.

      You add onto that a superb cast. And that’s one of the delights of the film. It’s an ensemble event, it’s not just one individual. Of course, my favorite actor, besides Josh Brolin [who plays Weathers], is the mountain itself.

      Q: Does the mountain seem real to you in the film?

      A: One of the reasons it’d taken so long to make [the film] was they simply did not have the technical ability to re-create Everest. They could make a mountain, but it wasn’t going to be Everest. And now they’re able to re-create Everest [using Imax footage filmed during the actual 1996 climb]. It looks absolutely real.

      And the storm is real. People don’t understand just how ferocious a storm like this can be. These are hurricane winds. And you’re standing on ice. This stuff can blow you all over kingdom come.

      Q: What do you think of the way your character is portrayed in the film?

      A: The character starts off being a bit of a jerk but then becomes more human as the movie progresses. It was a little jarring, because the character says things it wouldn’t even occur for me to say. But as I thought about it, I figured, well, at least for one period of my life, I’ll be devilishly handsome. … I’ll accept that.

      Taking you back to