In 1996, Beck Weathers was knocked down by a snowstorm on Everest and was left behind by his teammates, who even called his wife to inform her of his death.
In the spring of 1996, Weathers, a 50-year-old medical researcher from Texas, USA, joined a mountaineering group with the desire to conquer Everest.
Weathers was passionate about mountaineering and had successfully conquered many treacherous peaks. However, for him, Everest was always the greatest challenge. He was willing to devote all his energy to this mountain climb. In the end, Weathers had nothing more to lose. His marriage had deteriorated as he spent more time on mountains than with his family. When he began the Everest expedition on May 10, 1996, Weathers had no idea that his wife had decided to divorce him upon his return.
Beck Weathers was one of eight clients led up Everest by three guides from Adventure Consultants. Leading the group was experienced mountaineer Rob Hall, a New Zealander who had summited Everest five times.
The mountaineers set off early in the morning. The weather was good, visibility was clear, and the team was optimistic. It was cold, but the first 12-14 hours of the climb went fairly smoothly. However, soon after that, Weathers and the members of the team began to experience the harshness of the mountain to an extreme degree.
Shortly before coming to Nepal to climb Everest, Weathers had undergone surgery to correct his nearsightedness. The surgery, which involved cutting a flap in the cornea, a precursor to LASIK, improved his vision. However, the altitude had caused the healing flap to warp, leaving Weathers almost blind when darkness fell.
Upon discovering Weathers’ vision problem, Hall prohibited him from continuing the climb and instructed him to wait at the resting point while the others continued their journey. They would pick him up on the way back.
Weathers reluctantly agreed. As his teammates departed, he remained in the same position. Several other groups passing by offered him a spot in their team, but he declined, waiting for Hall as promised.
But Hall never returned.
As they neared the summit, one team member became too weak to continue. Not wanting to abandon their teammate, Hall chose to wait, but in the end, he couldn’t withstand the cold and died on the mountainside. To this day, Hall’s body remains frozen on Everest. Additionally, another guide from the team also perished.
Nearly 10 hours passed before Weathers realized something was wrong, but he had no choice but to wait for someone to pass by.
By evening, a mountaineer returned and informed Weathers that Hall was stranded. Although knowing he should descend with this person, Weathers decided to stay and wait for his own team.
Shortly after, Mike Groom, Hall’s deputy, and his team returned to meet Weathers. Groom had previously summited Everest and was familiar with the route. However, the night had fallen, their bodies were exhausted, and the mountaineering group decided to set up camp and continue their journey at first light.
But a storm began to form at the summit, covering the entire area in snow and reducing visibility to near zero before they could reach the campsite.
Weathers lost a glove and started feeling the effects of altitude and freezing temperatures. He gradually became disoriented, described by his teammates as “out of his mind.” When the group huddled together for warmth, Weathers suddenly stood up in the wind, raising his hands with his right hand frozen. He began screaming, saying he had “found a solution.” Then, a strong gust of wind knocked him down into the snow.
During the night, a Russian guide from another mountaineering team rescued the remaining members of Weathers’ team, but they believed Weathers was too weak to be saved. According to tradition, those who die on the summit of Everest are left where they fell, and Weather was one of them.
The next morning, when the storm passed, Stuart Hutchison, a Canadian doctor from Weathers’ team, returned to find Weathers and another woman left behind. After removing the ice from her body, the doctor determined that there was nothing more he could do.
He assessed Weathers in the same way. Weathers’ face was covered in frost, his jacket open to the waist, and his limbs stiff. The doctor described him as “still breathing but nearing death” and unable to survive until they descended. Weathers was left behind for the second time.
But Weathers was still alive, his body still fighting against death. Like a miracle, Weathers woke up after losing consciousness due to hypothermia.
“When I first woke up, I felt like I was in a dream, not fully aware of where I was. At that moment, I suddenly felt comfortable, warm, and at ease as if lying in bed, truly not uncomfortable,” he recalled.
However, Weathers immediately returned to reality when he examined his hands and feet. His right arm sounded like wood hitting each other when he tapped it on the ground.
Despite his fear, he made an effort to descend the mountain on feet that felt like porcelain and had almost no sensation. When Weathers reached the lower camp, the people there were astonished. Although his face was blackened by frostbite and his hands and feet might never fully recover, Weathers could still speak.
After the Canadian doctor left him on the mountain, Weathers’ wife was informed that her husband had died on the trip. But he returned, standing before them, battered but alive. Within hours, technicians at the Everest Coordination Center notified the authorities to airlift him to the hospital by helicopter.
Weathers had to have his right arm, a finger on his left hand, and his nose amputated. Later, plastic surgeons reconstructed his nose using skin from his neck and ear cartilage. Weathers no longer continues climbing. His wife decided not to divorce him but to stay by his side to take care of him.
In the end, the near-death mountaineering experience saved Weathers’ marriage. Although his body was affected, Weathers affirmed in his published book in 2015 that his spirit has never been more peaceful.