Miracle Survivor of Ill Fated Mt. Everest Expedition
September 28
, 2005 - Wednesday, 8 pm

On the night of May 10, 1996, a violent storm swept over Mt. Everest, buffeting the more than thirty adventurers who were descending from the mountain's summit with heavy snow, subzero cold, and hurricane-force winds. Within 24 hours, eight of the climbers, including three professional guides, were dead. It would become the deadliest day in the history of expeditions on the world's highest mountain.

Among the climbers severely injured by the spring storm was Dr. Seaborn Beck Weathers, a forty-nine-year-old amateur climber who, lying unconscious and exposed on the mountain's icy rocks, had been left for dead three hundred yards from his camp. His wife and family were notified of his death.

Miraculously, Weathers awoke the morning after the storm to find himself alive, but barely. His hands were severely frostbitten; he had no feeling left in his feet; his vision was so impaired that he could see only three or four feet in front of him. But in his mind's eye, he could see his wife and children back home in Dallas, Texas. "I was lying on my back in the ice. It was colder than anything you can believe," he says. "I figured I had three or four hours left to live, so I started walking. All I knew was, as long as my legs would run, and I could stand up, I was going to move toward that camp, and if I fell down, I was going to get up. And if I fell down again, I was going to get up, and I was going to keep moving until I either hit that camp, I couldn't get up at all, or I walked off the face of that mountain."

When he reached his camp, his astonished fellow climbers cut the frozen clothes from his body and warmed him with a hot water bottle. When they all reached the fourth camp from the summit two days later, Weathers was too ill to descend over the Khumbu Icefall, an enormous glacier of mile-deep crevasses and twelve-story-high ice blocks. Beneath the Icefall lay the base camp, where he could be moved to safety.

After hearing of her husband's amazing survival, Peach Weathers arranged for a helicopter to rescue him. Helicopters can lose the ability to lift at heights above 20,000 feet, and no one had ever dared to fly one above the Icefall before. In an extraordinary act of heroism, Lieutenant Colonel Madan Khatri Chhetri of the Nepalese army flew his helicopter up 22,000 feet to where Weathers lay. At Weathers' insistence, a Taiwanese climber who was in worse condition than he was flown out first. It was the second-highest helicopter rescue in history.

Dr. Weathers, a gifted surgeon, lost his right hand to frostbite, and part of his left hand as well. But though he lost his hands, he has never lost his hope. He has shown incredible courage throughout his ordeal, and his positive attitude has inspired many.

Born in Griffin, Georgia, in 1946, Dr. Weathers received his B.S. in mathematics and chemistry from Midwestern University in 1968. He received his Doctor of Medicine degree from Southwestern Medical School in 1972, and completed a pathology internship. His other professional experiences include a 1976-77 teaching appointment at Harvard Medical School. He has been a partner in a pathology firm, and has served at Medical City Dallas Hospital and National Health Laboratories as co-medical director since 1977.

The incredible story of Beck Weathers' survival has all the elements of a great adventure: heroism; bravery; a successful human struggle against the forces of nature; the surmounting of great physical and psychological challenges; and a triumph of the human spirit. He has come back from his ordeal to speak about his experience, and to enlighten us with the invaluable lessons he learned. We now have the rare opportunity to hear from someone who has faced his own death—and lived to tell about it.

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