Anyone who has read Jon Krakauer's famous account of the 1996 Everest disaster, Into thin air, will remember the story of Beck Weathers: the gregarious Texan climber who went snow-blind in the Death Zone below the summit and who spent a night out in the open during a blizzard that took the lives of a dozen colleagues and friends. Even as he staggered back into Camp 4 the next morning, Beck's condition was such that the other survivors assumed he would not make it back down the mountain. He was effectively left for dead, but drawing upon reserves of determination and courage he didn't know he had - as well as the extraordinary selflessness and bravery of a Nepalese helicopter pilot he'd never met - he finally made it to safety. Only then could a new battle begin: to rebuild his life with a family he'd taken for granted for too long.
"Left for Dead" is an interesting read about a flawed human being. Beck Weathers has a good, at times self-deprecating, sense of humor, and is very honest about his flaws. His wife, Peach, is aptly named, but I had to wonder why she stayed married to a man who was absent much of the time and difficult to live with when he was around. There wasn't as much about mountain climbing as I would have liked, but in the end Weathers seemed ill prepared for Everest. Mountain climbing was just an outlet for Weathers' ongoing depression and it's a miracle he wasn't hurt in some of his earlier attempts. While the book goes into much details about Beck's childhood and troubled marriage it glosses over other elements - most noticeably the cost of Beck's climbing expeditions and how Beck was able to take so much time off from work. Finally, I'd like to see an updated postscript on future editions to see how Beck and his family are doing today.
This was an enjoyable read.
Beck tells his story with a self-deprecating sense of humor that makes the story easier to read than it would be without it. He doesn't glorify any of it and includes things that I would imagine would be very difficult to share with the world.
This might finally end my consuming need for more information that Into Thin Air evoked.
In his opening chapter, he describes himself as an "amateur climber," in my opinion someone who had not business being on Everest, and his book reads that way. It annoyed me the first time he described his crampons (essentially cleats that you attach to your boots to provide traction on ice) as knives. The fact he continued to call them knives rather than crampons thereafter drove me nuts.
I've read several other books on the Everest tragedy (including Krakauer's, Boukreeve's and Breashear's.) I had been avoiding Weathers' book for no particular reason... perhaps it was instinct that I wouldn't like it. Although he had the most dramatic story of all, Weathers' book was the worst of the lot. (Only a small portion of the book is about the expedition itself.) Perhaps my intense dislike for this book is that I expected to be a climber's book and it is more a story about depression. I found it hard to swallow the redemption story and mostly just felt sorry for Weathers' family.