In 1996, depressed physician Beck Weathers and a climbing team pushed toward the summit of Mount Everest. Then a storm exploded on the mountain, ripping the team to shreds, forcing brave men to scratch and crawl for their lives. Rescuers who reached Weathers saw that he was dying, and left him. Twelve hours later, the inexplicable occurred. Weathers appeared, blinded, gloveless, and caked with ice -- walking down the mountain. In this memoir, Weathers describes not only his escape from hypothermia and the murderous storm that killed eight climbers, but the journey of his life. This is the story of a man's route to a dangerous sport and a fateful expedition, as well as the road of recovery he has traveled since; of survival in the face of certain death, the reclaiming of a family and a life; and of the most extraordinary adventure of all: finding the courage to say yes when life offers us a second chance.
"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.