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 films Everest (1998) and Everest (2015).[1] His 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]

Beck Weathers
Beck Weathers (left) in 2000
Born (1946-12-16) December 16, 1946 (age 77)
Occupation(s)Pathologist, amateur mountaineer
Known forSurviving the 1996 Mount Everest disaster

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, he was making a guided ascent on Vinson Massif, where he encountered Sandy Pittman, whom he would later meet on Everest in 1996.

Weathers said in an interview that he "had spent most of my adult life in profound depression," and turned to mountaineering and physical activity to reduce its effects. "I never let anybody know about it," he said of his depression, "and I discovered that if you drove your body hard — when you did that, you couldn't think, and that lack of thinking as you punished your body and drove yourself was amazingly pleasant."[3]

Mount Everest edit

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,[4] 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. Weathers, 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 awoke, 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. His nose appeared like a piece of charcoal and his cheeks were black. His hands were so frozen his peers described his hands as "the hands of a dead man."[5]

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 with which he was provided. 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.[6] Following his helicopter evacuation from the Western Cwm, his right arm was amputated halfway between the elbow and wrist. All four fingers and his thumb 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.[7]

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, and is on the pathology staff at Medical City Dallas Hospital.[8]

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.[9]

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. ^ Storm Over Everest. PBS Frontline. 2008.
  4. ^ "Left for Dead review". Salon. April 25, 2000. Archived from the original on January 2, 2004. Retrieved June 5, 2010.
  5. ^ Coburn, Broughton; Cahill, Tim; Breashears, David (1997). Everest : mountain without mercy. Washington. D.C.: National Geographic Society. p. 184. ISBN 9780792270140.
  6. ^ "Helicopter on Everest makes History". Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 27 January 2017.
  7. ^ Into Thin Air, pg. 352.
  8. ^ "After Everest: The Complete Story Of Beck Weathers". Men's Journal.
  9. ^ "REVIEW: Dallas Opera's stunning world premiere of 'Everest'". Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 27 January 2017.

External links edit