I've known and climbed with Colorado-based climber Jim Davidson for almost two decades. I consider him a mentor who has taught me ice and rock climbing, general mountaineering, and life. But, once again, his skills as a worldclass author take centre stage.
Reading The Next Everest brought memories to life skilfully bound together in a delightful style. His wit, humour, geologist's training, skill as a speaker and writer, occasional quirky analytics, and at times, enormous sensitivity weaves a tapestry of life lessons and experiences that take you quickly through some of his climbs culminating in his Next Everest.
His latest book, The Next Everest, is well, oh my, what a read.
Many people are familiar with his first book, The Ledge, co-written with Kevin Vaughn. In that book, he walks through the life-changing event on Mt Rainier in 1992, where Jim's climbing partner and long-time friend, Mike Price, died after falling into a deep crevasse. Jim almost lost his own life but demonstrated miraculous human spirit to extract himself from the same crevasse.
Now, Jim takes us on another journey, this time to Mt Everest.
A life-long dream for Jim, the book begins at Camp 1 in the Western Cwm, 19,500-feet, on April 25, 2015. A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the region just before noon, killing nearly 8,900 people throughout Nepal and trapping hundreds of climbers high on Mt Everest. I was a bit higher in the Cwm that day at Camp 2.
Reading Jim's description of the harrowing events, rescues, courage, and loss of life brought back vivid memories. But Jim does more than tell an earthquake story. He takes us inside his tent as he and his tentmate thought the avalanche would take their lives. Then, he puts us in the helicopter to fly over the Khumbu Icefall and back to a decimated Everest Base Camp where almost 100 people were injured, and eventually, 19 died.
Jim deals with situations most of us will never face.
As Jim covers in the book, I vividly remember sitting beside my crushed tent back at Everest Base Camp. A helicopter had flown me down from the Cwm only a few hours earlier. I was making a call back home on my sat phone when Jim walked up, not smiling as usual, but revealing an anguished expression this time. He had just helped carry a body to the helipad for the flight back to Kathmandu, where his family would have closure. We embraced as old friends but let it linger a bit, knowing we were one of the lucky ones on this warm April day.
With his 2015 effort over, Jim pondered if he'll ever return to Everest or move on with life.
What I enjoyed most about his book was, clearly, the mountaineering stories but also how Jim wove life lessons he learned from his Dad, Joe, and Uncle Bob, as a teenager painting almost anything near Concord, Massachusetts.
I won't spoil the ending of The Next Everest, but I highly recommend buying both The Ledge and The Next Everest today.
Alan Arnette is a climber, writer, and speaker. Outside Magazine cited him as "one of the world's most respected chroniclers of Everest". He summited Everest in 2011 and became the oldest American to summit K2 at age 58 in 2014.
The Next Everest - Surviving the mountain's deadliest day and finding the resilience to climb again Writer: Jim Davidson PP: 416 Published by: Pan Macmillan India Price: INRs 699
A version of this article appears in the print on September 14 2021, of The Himalayan Times.