Seaborn Beck Weathers (born December 1946) is an American pathologist from Texas. He is best known for his role in the 1996 Mount Everest disaster that has been the subject of many books and films, most notably Into Thin Air and Everest.
Weathers was born in a military family. He attended college in Wichita Falls, married, and had two children. In 1986, he enrolled in a mountaineering course and later decided to try to climb the Seven Summits. He considered Dick Bass, the first man to climb the Seven Summits, to be an "inspiration" in making summiting Everest possible for "regular guys." In 1993, Weathers was making a guided ascent on Vinson Massif, where he encountered Sandy Pittman, who he would later meet on Everest in 1996.
In May 1996, Weathers was one of eight clients being guided by celebrated guide Rob Hall of Adventure Consultants on Mount Everest. However, he soon discovered that he was blinded by the effects of high altitude and overexposure to ultraviolet radiation on his eyes that had been altered by radial keratotomy surgery, the effects of altitude upon which had not been well described at the time. On May 10, the day of the summit assault, after telling Hall that he could not see, Hall wanted him to descend to Camp IV immediately. Weathers, however, believed that his vision might improve when the sun came out, so Hall had him promise that he would wait on the Balcony (27,000 ft) until he (Hall) came back down to descend with him.
Hall, up high waiting for another client to reach the summit, never came down to assist Weathers and later died high up on the mountain. Weathers eventually began descending with guide Michael Groom, who was short-roping him. When the blizzard struck, Weathers and 10 other men and women became disoriented in the storm, could not find Camp IV, and staggered around the South Col for several hours. When there was a break in the storm, Weathers had been so weakened that he and three other climbers were left there so the others could summon help. Anatoli Boukreev, a guide on another expedition led by Scott Fischer, came and rescued several climbers, but during that time, Weathers had stood up and disappeared into the night. The next day, another client on Rob Hall's team, Stuart Hutchison, and two Sherpas arrived to check on the status of Weathers and fellow client Yasuko Namba. Believing that Weathers and Namba were both near death and would not make it off the mountain alive, Hutchison and the others left and returned to Camp IV.
Weathers spent the night in an open bivouac in a blizzard with his face and hands exposed. When he awoke, he managed to walk down to Camp IV under his own power. His fellow climbers said that his frozen hand and nose looked and felt as if they were made of porcelain, and they did not expect him to survive. With that assumption, they only tried to make him comfortable until he died, but he survived another freezing night alone in a tent unable to drink, eat, or keep himself covered with the sleeping bags he was provided with. His cries for help could not be heard above the blizzard, and his companions were surprised to find him alive and coherent the following day.
Weathers was later helped to walk on frozen feet to a lower camp, where he was a subject of one of the highest altitude medical evacuations ever performed by helicopter. Following his helicopter evacuation from the Western Cwm, he had his right arm amputated halfway between the elbow and wrist. All four fingers and the thumb on his left hand were removed, as well as parts of both feet. His nose was amputated and reconstructed with tissue from his ear and forehead.
Weathers authored a book about his experience, Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest, which was first published in 2000. He continues to practice medicine and deliver motivational speeches. He lives in Dallas, Texas.
- National Geographic - profile of Weathers and other survivors, with audio interviews
- TED - Medical Miracle on Everest - Ken Kamler - the only doctor on the mountain discusses how Weathers survived.