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U.S. CLIMBER GLADLY LEAVES THE HEIGHTS

Black smudges from frostbite are still smeared across the face of Dr. Beck Weathers. He soaks his hands in a whirlpool and struggles to move his fingers, desperately trying to keep the blood flowing.

Sound bad? Not when you consider the alternative for a man whose Memorial Day will be spent celebrating the three-week anniversary of his dramatic rescue from Mount Everest during a storm that killed eight other climbers.Weathers, 49, fully credits "blind staggering luck" for allowing him to be back at home in Dallas with his wife, teenage son and daughter. He says the Everest expedition was his last climb.

His pathology practice is on hold. What matters, though, is that he's alive. Weathers realizes his good fortune and, like many who survive near-death experiences, he has a new view of life.

"There are things I've done, like mountain climbing, that I don't regret. I enjoyed that. At the same time, that's not the most important thing in my life. I think family and friends and just having a certain wonderment and pleasure at being alive - the simple things - are certainly more apparent to me," Weathers said during an interview Saturday.

So is his sense of humor.

For example, Weathers calls the attention he's getting his "Andy Warhol moment," but he expects to easily slide back into anonymity.

Weathers' nose is the blackest part of his face and he even says he's "just waiting around to see if my nose falls off."

When rescuers first reached Weathers, they thought they were too late. Assuming he couldn't be revived, he was left behind.

Weathers awoke a few hours later, but felt as if he was in a dream. His frozen fingers didn't seem real and he had visions of his loved ones.

Weathers willed himself to continue and on May 13 he finally was flown to safety in Everest's highest-ever helicopter rescue.