Beck Weathers: How he survived being left for dead on Everest

On May 10, 1996, one of the most disastrous events ever recorded in the mountain’s history unfolded. During this event, Beck Weathers found himself facing a life-or-death struggle. Trapped amidst a relentless blizzard, he grappled with diminished oxygen supply and obscured visibility, compounded by the unfortunate aftermath of a corneal surgery that rendered him practically blind. Against all odds, Weathers defied fate and emerged alive after a miraculous span of 15 hours.

After being left for dead, Beck bearing the frostbite scars on his right hand, arm and nose raced against the fading daylight, to reach High Camp (Camp IV) in order to save his own life. This blog recounts the events of Beck Weathers before Everest, the events that unfolded during the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, and where he is now. 

The Background and Life of Beck Weathers

Beck Weathers before Everest

Beck Weathers, born on December 16, 1946, spent his formative years in Texas, nurturing his aspirations. He embarked on a medical career, ultimately attaining the esteemed position of a pathologist in Dallas. However, despite his professional accomplishments, a pervasive dissatisfaction gradually consumed him, prompting him to embark on a quest for solace and meaning in the realm of mountaineering.

At the age of 40, Weathers stumbled upon a profound passion for climbing during a short stay in the Rocky Mountain National Park. This newfound passion for climbing and mountaineering, propelled him to challenge his own limits, embarking on increasingly daring and hazardous expeditions. Notably, he set his sights on conquering the seven summits—a lofty aspiration entailing scaling the tallest peaks on each continent. An aspiration that he never completed.

Weathers Struggled with Depression:

In the twenty years preceding his fateful expedition to Everest, Weathers grappled with a severe and occasionally life-threatening depression that he aptly labeled as “the black dog.” Amidst this inner turmoil, the mountains emerged as sanctuaries imbued with unparalleled joy and tranquility, eluding him in other aspects of life. 

However, as his passion for mountaineering grew, it took a toll on his personal relationships. Inevitably, his family bonds, and especially with his wife Peach Weathers, suffered as he channeled his energies into training, hospital duties, and extensive journeys to pursue his climbing ambitions.

Despite acknowledging the detrimental repercussions of his obsession on his marriage and family life, Weathers found himself unable to sever the magnetic pull of mountaineering. His wife, Peach, had initially intended to divorce Beck upon his return from Everest. However, his brush with death and subsequent change in lifestyle, prompted her to reconsider, granting him a one year chance to demonstrate his change.

Beck Weathers and The 1996 Everest Disaster:

May 10, 1996, marked a fateful day on Mount Everest as a storm engulfed the mountain, ensnaring multiple climbing teams within the deadly high altitude area known as Everest’s Death Zone. Situated above 26,000 feet, the well known Rainbow Valley region of Everest, and its perilous altitude has insufficient oxygen to sustain human life over prolonged durations.

This devastating storm accounted for the deadliest calamity ever witnessed on Everest. Claiming the lives of eight climbers, including some of the most famous dead bodies on Everest, such as Rob Hall, Scott Fischer, and Green Boots. Additionally, a fellow climber from the Adventure Consultants’ team, Doug Hansen also lost his life. However, Doug’s body was never recovered or seen.

Beck Weathers was able to escape death on Everest that day. However, he did succumb to frostbite, resulting in the loss of his right arm, all his fingers on his left hand, toes on both feet, and his nose. Although his body was severely affected by the cold while spending over 15 hours unconscious in the frigid cold, he was able to make it back to Camp IV, and save his own life, after he was left for dead by rescuers.

Events Leading Up To Beck’s Everest Incident:

Before Everest and embarking on his journey to Nepal, Beck Weathers underwent a routine surgery known as radial keratotomy to address his nearsightedness. This procedure involved creating small incisions in his corneas to reshape them for improved vision. However, the high altitude of Everest had an adverse effect on his healing corneas, exacerbating his vision impairment and rendering him blind on the mountain.

Upon realizing that Weathers could no longer see, Rob Hall, the expedition leader, made the difficult decision to stop him from proceeding further up the mountain. He instructed Weathers to remain on the side of the trail while he guided the rest of the team towards the summit, with the plan of picking him up on their descent.

Reluctantly, Weathers agreed and waited as his teammates continued their ascent towards the summit. Despite offers from passing groups to join their descent, he steadfastly waited for Hall, fulfilling the promise they had made.

However, upon reaching the summit, Doug Hansen “The Mailman” was having an extremely difficult time climbing. Determined not to abandon him, Hall chose to wait, which resulted in him losing his life.

Almost ten hours elapsed before Weathers realized something was amiss. Isolated on the side of the mountain, he had no choice but to wait for another climber to pass by. It was shortly after 5 p.m. when a descending climber informed Weathers of Hall’s predicament. Despite the knowledge that he should accompany the climber down, Weathers opted to wait for a member of his own team, who he was informed was not far behind on the descent.

What Happened To Beck Weathers During The Disaster?

Beck Weathers 1996 Everest Rescue

Caught in the storm at an altitude of 26,000 feet, Beck Weathers found himself in a uniquely precarious situation. Compounded by his loss of vision, Weathers eventually succumbed to unconsciousness, and his fellow climbers reluctantly accepted his fate, presuming him to be beyond salvation. 

Yet, defying all expectations, Weathers experienced a miraculous resurgence. After a staggering 22 hours since the storm’s onset and 15 hours spent in a hypothermic coma, he regained consciousness, acutely aware that he had only a fleeting opportunity to secure his return to safety.

Weathers triumphed against staggering odds as he mustered the strength to reach High Camp (Camp IV). Despite the debilitating frostbite that ultimately cost him his right arm, several fingers on his left hand, and nose, he continued moving towards the camp. He eventually was able to walk and crawl back to Camp IV and get help.

Beck Weathers, and fellow Taiwanese climber Makalu Gau were medevaced by helicopter off the mountain – which at the time, was the highest helicopter rescue on Everest ever.

The Importance of Beck Weathers Survival and Transformation:

Beck Weathers’ survival not only bestowed upon him the status of an emblem of unwavering determination but also ignited a profound personal and professional metamorphosis. Following his journey on Everest, Weathers was granted a second chance by his wife, Peach, who entrusted him with the opportunity to demonstrate genuine change. Through the process of recuperation and self-exploration, Weathers underwent a profound inner transformation, emerging as a more attentive and involved spouse, father, and grandfather.

Moreover, his story has become one of inspiration for countless individuals, prompting him to devote the past 15 years of his life to sharing his experiences as a motivational speaker. The lessons he gleaned from his Everest expedition have indelibly shaped his existence, serving as a perpetual reminder of the enduring significance of perseverance, resilience, and the indomitable human spirit.

What Happened To Beck Weathers After the Everest Disaster?

This section explores the post-1996 Everest calamity era of Beck Weathers’ life. We look at the  transformation he underwent on both physical and personal fronts. Weathers’ unyielding resilience and unwavering bravery in the face of adversity has rendered him an awe-inspiring figure.

Physical Consequences Of The Disaster For Beck:

The catastrophic events on Everest left an indelible mark on Weathers’ physical being. Enduring prolonged exposure to the brutal cold, he suffered from debilitating frostbite, necessitating the amputation of his right arm below the elbow and the loss of all fingers on his left hand.

Furthermore, his face had a permanent alteration as his nose was reconstructed using tissue from his ear. However, Weathers adamantly refused to allow these physical setbacks to shape his identity.

Despite the anguish and challenges inherent in adapting to his transformed reality, he embraced an unwavering resolve to seize life to its fullest, undeterred by his injuries.

Personal Transformation Of Weathers After Everest

The harrowing brush with death on Everest instigated a profound metamorphosis within Weathers. In the aftermath of the disaster, he found himself bestowed with a newfound reverence for life and a deepened understanding of its intrinsic values. As a devoted husband and father, he underwent a remarkable shift, prioritizing his family above all else, seeking to compensate for the time previously devoted to his career and mountaineering endeavors. Luckily, the transformation saved his marriage, as Beck Weathers’ wife wanted to divorce him, but gave him one more year after the Everest incident.

Moreover, Weathers embarked on a path as an influential orator, sharing his tale of survival and transformation with audiences across the globe. Through his narratives, he illuminated the significance of perseverance, resilience, and the resolute human spirit in surmounting daunting adversities. His survival saga struck a resounding chord with countless individuals navigating their own tribulations, positioning him as an emblem of hope and unwavering determination for those striving to overcome obstacles and embrace life to its fullest.

Beck Weathers’ extraordinary journey serves as a reminder of the boundless power and resilience inherent within the human spirit, requisite for confronting the challenges that life presents.

Where is Beck Weathers Today?

Beck Weathers Face, Beck Weathers Hand
Photo of Beck Weathers’s hand and face after Frostbite

Weathers shared his gripping account of his Everest experience and personal journey in the book “Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest” (2000). Alongside his literary pursuits, he maintains his medical career and delivers inspirational and motivational speeches, captivating audiences with his remarkable story. Weathers currently resides in Dallas, Texas, where he serves as a member of the pathology staff at Medical City Dallas Hospital.

Beck Weathers and his wife Peach are still living together in Dallas, Texas. In a tragic but positive moment, Beck Weathers would not be the same today, without the Everest disaster. Today, Beck Weathers is more present, and not looking forward to anything else; issues that plagued his marriage with Peach Weathers before. The disaster, and loss of Beck Weathers’ hands and nose to frostbite have transformed his life. He is now living happily with his wife Peach, and has no nightmares of the incident as he has come to terms with it.

The Media and Public Attention of Beck’s Tragic Events on Everest:

Weathers’ gripping encounter on Everest has become an everlasting part of mountaineering history, immortalized through various literary and cinematic works. Jon Krakauer’s widely acclaimed book, “Into Thin Air,” stands as an authoritative firsthand account of the catastrophe, gripping readers with its haunting and vivid depiction of the events that day. Beck Weathers’ book, titled “Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest,” discusses his emotional voyage and the invaluable life lessons he gleaned from his time on Everest.

In 2015, director Baltasar Kormákur brought the 1996 disaster to life on the silver screen with the film “Everest” (one of my favorites, and must watch movies on Everest!) Featuring an ensemble cast, including Josh Brolin portraying Beck Weathers, the movie delivered a dramatic and intense portrayal of the fateful expedition, captivating audiences and cementing Weathers’ indelible story in the collective consciousness of the public.

Beck Weathers became an inspirational speaker:

Beck Weathers Today, Motivational Speaker
Beck Weathers Today – Giving Motivational Speeches

In addition to his presence in books and movies, Weathers has ventured onto the stage as a highly sought-after inspirational speaker. His remarkable narrative of survival, resilience, and personal growth has deeply resonated with audiences across the globe, establishing him as a potent and motivating force within the outdoor and mountaineering community.

By sharing his extraordinary journey with individuals, Weathers has ignited a flame of inspiration within countless hearts, encouraging them to confront their own challenges with unwavering courage and determination. He places emphasis on the significance of perseverance, the indomitable human spirit, and the transformative power of maintaining a positive outlook in the face of adversity.

For enthusiasts of outdoor exploration and mountaineering, Beck Weathers’ story stands as a potent reminder of the risks, rewards, and unwavering resilience entwined within the pursuit of adventure. Through the medium of books, movies, and his own captivating words, Weathers has emerged as an emblem of hope and unwavering determination, inspiring all individuals to transcend their limits and embrace a life brimming with fulfillment, irrespective of the obstacles encountered along the way.

The Ongoing Challenges and Pursuits of Beck Weathers:

Beck Weathers and Wife Peach Weathers
Beck Weathers and Wife, Peach

Beck Weathers’ extraordinary survival and subsequent personal evolution ignited widespread fascination, propelling him towards a profound reconfiguration of his life after the Everest ordeal. This section explores the ongoing trials and triumphs he encountered, shining a light on his unwavering pursuit of new hobbies and interests.

Pursuing New Hobbies And Interests:

While the aftermath of the Everest disaster left an indelible mark on Weathers’ physical being, his indomitable spirit for adventure and self-exploration remains resolute. Manifesting his passion for the great outdoors, he has embraced a new pursuit: flying, a realm where he finds both exhilaration and solace.

Moreover, Weathers has discovered solace and profound fulfillment in creative endeavors, particularly painting, which has become a profound avenue for self-expression and personal growth. His artistic creations, often inspired by his immersive experiences in nature, serve as captivating reflections of the inherent beauty within the world around us, resonating with his deep-seated appreciation for life’s simple yet profound joys.

Finding a Balance of Risk and Family Life:

The aftermath of the Everest disaster compelled Weathers to reevaluate his priorities, seeking a harmonious equilibrium between his love for adventure and his responsibilities as a husband and father. Embracing his role as a dedicated family man, he treasures the precious moments shared with his wife and children, ensuring that his pursuits align harmoniously with his unwavering commitment to their well-being.

His transformative experience instilled within him a profound understanding of the significance of moderation and risk management within the realm of outdoor exploration. Now, he endeavors to embody a role model for others within the mountaineering community, sharing his remarkable story and imparting the invaluable lessons he has learned along the way. Weathers aspires to inspire individuals to approach their passions with a balanced perspective, fostering a healthy respect for the inherent risks involved, as well as for the environment and the cherished individuals who hold paramount importance in their lives.

Beck Weathers’ Life Changing Experience on Mount Everest:

Beck Weathers today, beck weathers at home
Beck Weathers at home

The awe-inspiring tale of how Beck Weathers’ was left for dead, and how he avoided death on Everest, has captured the hearts and minds of the entire mountaineering community.

His remarkable journey stands as a testament to the indomitable strength of the human spirit and the extraordinary power of unwavering determination. Weathers’ extraordinary odyssey from the precipice of death on the world’s tallest peak to a renewed existence brimming with purpose and fervor serves as a profound source of inspiration for those who confront their own trials.

Beck Weathers’ harrowing experience on Everest yields invaluable lessons for outdoor enthusiasts worldwide. It underscores the utmost significance of thorough preparation, unwavering teamwork, and effective communication within extreme environments. By sharing his resounding narrative, Weathers has emerged as an influential advocate for change within the mountaineering community, galvanizing others to reassess their priorities and emboldening them to embark on a path of personal growth and profound transformation.

FAQs: The Story of Beck Weathers on Mount Everest

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding Beck Weathers on Everest.

1. How did Beck Weathers survive Mount Everest?

Beck Weathers survived Mount Everest by spending over 18 hours enduring the elements on the slopes above camp IV. He eventually was able to walk and crawl under his own power back to the camp. He was then flown off Everest to a hospital.

In addition to the reconstructive surgery on his nose, Weathers underwent the challenging process of amputating his right arm, the fingers on his left hand, and substantial portions of both feet. Medical professionals successfully reconstructed his nose using skin grafts from his neck and ear. Even more remarkably, they achieved the remarkable feat of growing the reconstructed nose on Weathers’ own forehead.

2. Why was Beck Weathers left for dead?

Beck was left for dead because rescuers who reached him discovered the critical state he was in, and believed that he was going to die. The rescuers moved on in search of others that they believed had a chance to live.

3. How many fingers did Beck Weathers lose?

Beck Weathers lost his entire right hand and all four fingers and his thumb on his left hand, along with the removal of portions of both feet, and his nose.

4. What did Beck Weathers do for a living?

Seaborn Beck Weathers works as an American pathologist for a living. He lives in Texas, and was born on December 16, 1946. He achieved a remarkable survival in the infamous 1996 Mount Everest disaster, a catastrophic event chronicled in Jon Krakauer’s gripping book “Into Thin Air” (1997), its film adaptation “Into Thin Air: Death on Everest” (1997), as well as the movies “Everest” (1998) and “Everest” (2015).

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