The second book I read in my challenge to read 12 books in 2016 was Beck Weathers’ narrative about his return from the disastrous 1996 Everest season. Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest focuses on Weathers’ life before his death and rebirth on Everest in May 1996 and then the recovery process. While the recovery clearly involved a physical element as a result of the damage caused by frostbite, more importantly for the author and his family was his emotional and mental health recovery.
Originally published in 2004, the timing of this edition of the book coincided with the 2015 release of the major motion picture Everest, and involved a new preface by the author. Weathers’ is clear throughout his book that it not a re-telling of the Everest event, which he believes was best presented by Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air. Instead, he and his co-author Stephen Michaud take the reader inside the thinking and decision making of a successful doctor who can’t seem to shake the black dog of his depression. A man who falls for a hobby which then becomes obsession. We see how his behaviour is seen as therapeutic by Weathers but as selfish by his loved ones.
While the title suggests the reader will learn about the struggles Weathers endured in the Everest death zone and the medical challenges he faced afterwards. Instead, however, we read about the choices he made throughout his entire life through the post-accident lens of a survivor. To add some context to his story, there are also comments/segments from his wife Peach, their children, and family friends. Unfortunately, the reader is left with the impression that Weathers’ in extremely self-indulgent and it is hard to feel sorry for him. I felt more for his long suffering wife, Peach, who often refers to the hard work that goes into a successful marriage.
Left for Dead was not the book I was expecting. That said, it was interesting to see how Beck and his family and friends perceived his activities leading up to the Everest climb, and the insights he gained following the events on the mountain. This is not a book that is mired in self-pity, he is not looking for sympathy, but even after everything he has endured, I’m not completely sure he has finished his journey home.
Here is the trailer for the Everest film, starring Josh Brolin as Beck Weathers and Jason Clark as Everest guide Rob Hall.
A clip from the film showing some of the dangers Beck experienced on Everest and the help he received. It is interesting that a man who was so independent had to depend on so many others for survival throughout mountain climbing his life. The irony is not lost on his wife who felt neglected throughout much of their marriage.