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A Love Story
Beck Weathers' photo

Beck Weathers

      . . .Mt. Everest survivor. The day after 8 others perished on Mt. Everest in May, 1996, Beck Weathers awakened from hypothermic coma. Aided by a series of quiet heroes, and as the world watched in astonishment, Mr. Weathers returned to life. He tells of two monumental struggles -- one on Everest, the other rebuilding his marriage, family and sense of self -- in Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest. In addition to speaking nationally, he practices medicine in Dallas, where he lives with his family.

Excerpts3:27 secs

      A dead man stumbles into camp so near the summit of Mt. Everest that a helicopter rescue is suicidal. He lives to tell the tale. What no one knew as the world watched the unbelievable in the deadly spring of 1996 was that Beck Weathers had lived a lifetime with depression so severe that only the extreme physical demands of climbing the world's highest peaks gave him surcease. For decades he suffered, longing only for oblivion.

      The pain which drove Beck Weathers back to life was different. He remembers it as the unspeakable melancholy of loosing the core of his being -- his wife and children. Somehow, when he opened his blinded eyes, alone in the storm atop Mt. Everest, Beck Weathers saw what he was losing. And he did not plan to lose it again. Awakening out of hypothermic coma, he determined that whatever it took -- drive, focus, determination, intensity, sacrifice -- he would convince Peach Weathers that there still was a bond between them. That trust could be revived. That they could be whole. The pain of depression -- "If the anguish would just go away" -- was supplanted by a different pain --"If my wife and children could just be here and real and now." This longing drove him to his feet and pushed him down Mt. Everest into heroic arms, rescuers who put their own lives at risk to save his.

      Beck Weathers returned to a very different life in Dallas. He lost both hands and half his face. But Beck's challenge was greater still. When Beck left for Mt. Everest, Peach was leaving him. She relented, but agreed only to give him one year to regain what he had spent 20 years taking apart -- their marriage. For Beck Weathers, climbing mountains paled by comparison.

      Years have now passed. What has Beck Weathers learned? Success and ease have nothing to teach us. It is in persevering through extremely difficult, hard, sad moments that we can gain peace, he's convinced. And he's become confident the hard times are not only a part of life, they are some of the life's best. He's not suggesting we deliberately put ourselves in misery's way to gain wisdom. But he does think facing difficulty is how we learn who we are. And who our spouses, children and friends are. The rewards? A sense of calm and trust and tranquility forged by enduring difficult times, knowing that the other person will still be there.

      Beck Weathers now has a new face. One hand is now a very useful club. The other hand is a hook, the arm make of wood. Beck also has his family. He has become ever-watchful of symptoms of the disease which triggered this cautionary tale. He is deeply appreciative that what began as a solitary mountain climbing adventure ended up a love story. And it's a duet.

[This Program was recorded May 18, 2000 in Atlanta, Georgia, US.]

Conversation 1

Beck Weathers tells Paula Gordon and Bill Russell about heroes of many kinds. Mr. Weathers explains why his book is not a mountaineering story, but focuses instead on what interests him more -- the people left at home.


Conversation 2

Mr. Weathers offers his perspective on why people climb Mt. Everest. He describes the challenges a person might put to himself or herself. He explains why climbing big mountains is a slow motion study in pain, among very interesting people. He explains what drove him to the mountains -- the physical challenges provided some relief from clinical depression. He recalls excluding everyone he knew from knowing about his pain and the enormous price it extracted


Conversation 3

Literal and figurative mountains are considered. Mr. Weathers describes trying to define himself to himself. He recalls his wife and the condition of their marriage and family when he ascended Mt. Everest. He describes mixed emotions around the possibility of dying on the mountain. He describes his own and speculates about others' mental state(s) while climbing, explaining how essential and simple existence becomes when one is climbing. The real struggle, he assures us, is not physical, and gives deadly examples.


Conversation 4

Mr. Weathers describes consequences for right and wrong decisions while climbing. He acknowledges the heroism of people in what DAVID BREASHEARS calls "the brotherhood of the rope" -- people who made good decisions of which they could be proud.  He then recalls in vivid detail the most interesting person of all -- military pilot Madan K.C., a member of Nepal's warrior caste, who saved The Beck's life in the world's highest helicopter rescue. Mr. Weathers tells what his wife's friends back home had to do to make it possible for Madan K.C. to rescue him


Conversation 5

With stunning clarity, Mr. Weathers, who is also a physician, describes observing himself in the process of freezing to death in an environment which is 100% fatal. He explains how death comes. He speaks to the mystery of coming back to consciousness, opening his eyes, knowing that he was dead, seeing the core of his being. He describes what drove him to his feet and back down the mountain. Mr. Weathers recalls how different the pain of depression is from the melancholy he felt when he was sure he would never again see his family. He considers what he will do if the depression ever returns, describing the work ahead of him in restoring his life.


Conversation 6

Climbing up and back down Mt. Everest was not as tough as rebuilding the trust in his marriage, Mr. Weathers assures us. He expands. Hard times are part of life, he is confident. Learning, he says, comes from persevering through extremely difficult and hard and sad moments to gain the calm, peace, trust and tranquility that are the rewards for having endured great difficulty. He reminds us why his is a profound love story, two people (finally) becoming as one.


Acknowledgements

In addition to the heroism of David Breashears and others who belong to "the brotherhood of the rope," Mr. Weathers bows to Madan K.C., the military pilot and member of Nepal's warrior caste whose helicopter rescue of The Beck defied reason and physics. We join Mr. Weathers in thanking Madan K.C. for showing us the power of a brave heart.

Clearly, Peach Weathers is one very special person. We wish she'd been able to join us.

Related Links:
Left for Dead:My Journey Home from Everest is written with Stephen G. Michaud and published by Villard Books.
David Breashears and Matt Dickinson were on Mount Everest at the same time Beck Weathers was struggling to survive. David Breashears was one of those who selflessly did what was necessary to save Beck's life.


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