Left for Dead by Beck Weathers

“In 1996 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 powerful memoir, now featuring a new Preface, 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.”

Ever since I read Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, I’ve had a fascination with the 1996 Everest disaster.  It’s not only me that feels this way—if the recent movie Everest is any indication, the tale’s staying power hasn’t diminished with time.  A recent Amazon Kindle deal led me to Weathers’s memoir, which I had heard of but hadn’t read.  Interestingly, this book is less about the actual event and more about Weathers himself, what led him to the mountain, and what happened after he returned.

The 1996 climb takes up the first small section of the book, and then readers get an intimate portrait of what might drive a man to climb a mountain that could conceivably kill him.  That’s a question that many people ask when they read about what it takes to summit Everest, or see a movie about it, or a documentary.  What would drive someone to undertake such a perilous endeavor?  In Weathers’s case, it was depression.

I admire the author for talking candidly about his struggles with depression over the course of many years and how they affected both him and his family.  The book is interspersed with sections by other people in Weathers’s life, most particularly his wife, Peach.  Neither of them make any attempt to hide how difficult it was to deal with what Weathers was going through.  He himself makes no bones about the fact that he climbed mountains because the sheer physical effort drowned out the blackness that he often felt.  He’s also unflinching in admitting that he never considered asking for help with what he was feeling.

Much like Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, Left for Dead focuses more on the person than on the physical feat, but unlike Strayed, Weathers doesn’t appear to wallow in his issues.  Rather, he faces them with the clarity of hindsight and never lets himself off the hook for the damage that he did to those he loves.  For this, I truly admire him.

This book was a personal purchase.

(Description nicked from Goodreads.com.)

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