It’s probably best that most of us never have to be tested the way Jim Davidson was in late June of 1992.
Davidson was downclimbing Mount Rainier with his climbing buddy and friend Mike Price after a successful climb of the peak’s Liberty Ridge. But just a few hundred yards away from leaving a tricky glacier, a snowbridge underneath Davidson’s feet collapsed, exposing a gaping crevasse that opened up and swallowed both of them.
Davidson found himself more than 80 feet below the place where the snowbridge collapsed, perched on a tiny ledge that was the only thing stopping both of them from plummeting deeper inside the glacial fissure and into a sure death.
Price was fatally injured and incapacitated. Davidson, the junior climber of the two, was also hurt and faced with having to undertake the toughest ice climb of his life with a spare amount of gear and an overabundance of fear and sorrow that threatened to immobilize him in what would be the toughest test of his life.
Davidson’s book “The Ledge” chronicles this fight for survival as well as how he dealt with the survivor’s guilt that followed. It’s a crisp, fast-paced read that covers a lot of ground, detailing how he came to be a climber, his friend’s impressive climbing history and the intimate details of how he managed to self-rescue in the most impossible of situations.
Davidson, who co-wrote “The Ledge” with journalist Kevin Vaughan, paces the book well while going back into his past experiences and how they helped him find the path and the will to save his own life and help rescue crews recover his friend’s body.
This is a terribly honest reading. Davidson doesn’t shy away from laying bare the thoughts and emotions he went through. He also spends a good amount of time describing how he dealt with the accident’s aftermath. That makes this more than just a story of adventure and survival. It almost operates as how-to for people who have to confront a disaster in which you survived, but someone you cared for did not. Interestingly, he pays homage to another story of wilderness survival, “Into the Void,” which he credits to helping him muster the mental strength to climb a vertical to overhanging icewall with very little gear and no one around to assist.
Climbers and mountaineers have, interestingly enough, been known to become good writers. “The Ledge” fits that mold, giving the reader great visual detail and a thorough account of what the author was thinking and feeling. Pick it up, and add it to your library.
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