Climbing a Mountain Bigger than Everest
Not many of us get the opportunity to see a portion of our life portrayed in cinematography. Fewer of us get to see it in IMAX 3D. For Dr. Beck Weathers, the 2015 film, Everest captures both in his 1996 ascent to the top of the world. Moviegoers are taken along the trail to Everest’s summit in this spectacularly filmed adventure among the mountain’s relentless climate. Director Baltasar Kormakur depicts a condensed facet of mountain climbing in this two-hour film. Viewers follow along the expedition’s inception, an introduction to the characters, their personal motives, the four teams that attempted the mountain in May, and the unpredictable storm that devastated their descent.
Dr. Beck Weathers returned to Dallas within days of his 1996 experience. Being abandoned atop Everest provided focus for the pathologist and during his recovery, an awareness to the priorities in his life. He detailed his recollection of the Everest experience and his interpretation of the film in front of a Dallas Medical City audience in September of 2015.
At the podium beneath his curled salt-and-peppered hair donning a pale sage-green cabana shirt, it’s easy for viewers to lose perspective that this man once climbed Everest. “Well I hope we have some fun this morning,” he starts off his press conference. His Texas accent twang prevalent. The parts of his body ravaged in the experience remain as remnants to the message he conveys.
Weathers’ journey as well as the movie follow excerpts from his 2000 book entitled Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest. While the press conference led us into movie making, Weathers detailed the significance of the film’s accuracy. “There’s nothing on this kind of scale,” Weathers said of the film. “With a great deal of effort and authenticity, they’ve managed to recreate this story in a way that it looks just like the real thing. The story flows like the real thing and I’m pretty stoked with what they’ve managed to do with this,” Weathers expressed.
Sweeping camera shots unveil the Himilayas’ majestic vastness. Wind sheers race off mountains bring perspective to the climate. “Every scene that’s portrayed there looks exactly as if it were filmed in real time,” he said. Unforgiving ice crevasses descend endlessly while frail aluminum ladders feel like toothpicks against the mountain. Helicopters appear minuscule among the slopes and the storm hits you in the face with a blast of frigid mountain air.Kormakur often reels the moviegoer back to the mountain from their cushioned theater seats reinforcing the effects that lack of oxygen and altitude have on the human body. He specifically pinpoints Weathers’ unforeseen vision problems preventing the doctor’s summit push.
Viewers follow along expedition leader Rob Hall’s team as we’re led through the ascent from the perspective of several different characters. “All in all they did a great job, and hopefully by the time they get into serious trouble, and the chaos truly reigns, you’ll care about the people,” Weathers recommended. In the film we’re introduced to Japanese climber Yasuko Namba with six of the seven world summits under her parka; Weathers using mountain climbing as an outlet to overcome his depression; postal worker Doug Hansen’s personal challenge to show his associates the summit’s possibility; and guide Rob Hall’s motive to get his team up and down the mountain and his promised return to his pregnant wife.
The movie’s production schedule found seasoned actor Josh Brolin playing the part Beck Weathers. Familiar to moviegoers as grizzled veteran Llewelyn Moss in No Country for Old Men, and renegade Tom Chaney in 2010’s, True Grit, Brolin emerges as the affable Weathers character in Everest. “Josh Brolin is a superb actor,” Weathers stated, “because he acts the part. There are a lot of really good actors who basically play themselves in every movie, but I’m pretty sure Brolin could play the part of Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music if they asked him to,” Beck said conveying the actor’s versatility. Brolin’s sensibilities to Weathers’ struggle validates the character development authenticity Kormakur employed in making Everest.
Back in Dallas, Beck Weathers returned to his vocation at Medical City. He repaired the bond with his wife Peach and their two children. His Medical City compatriots refit his wounds allowing the doctor to travel and speak on his Everest experience. In front of an audience, his words flow fluidly, expressing mountain climbing and being trapped as an eventual awakening to the values in life. “So a two-by-four across the face and one episode of dying is a good way to begin to learn, because if you can’t learn from dying, then you’re a seriously slow learner,” Beck clarified. “So it saved my marriage, saved the relationship with my kids, and the last 20 years have been the most interesting, most fascinating years of my life.”
One recent speaking engagement put him on stage in front of a high school audience. Dr. Weathers, overcome with the thought that not one of his young listeners were alive at the time of Everest trek, walked the assembly through his experience and later commented on his talk. “I hope it gets them interest in the people,” he said, “because there’s a lot of really interesting books, documentaries, and the like to let them explore this further and this was one of the most captivating adventure stories of the last century.”