EDWARDS — Jim Davidson and Kevin Vaughan, authors of “The Ledge: An Adventure Story of Friendship and Survival on Mount Rainier,” will share stories of ice climbing and adventure Wednesday night at The Bookworm of Edwards. Their memoir recounts Davidson’s 1992 Mount Rainier ascent with his best friend, Mike Price, beginning with the thrilling start, detailing the fatal climb and ending with Davidson’s emotional recovery from Price’s death.
“Barely surviving that 80-foot fall inside Emmons Glacier on Mount Rainier made me feel very fortunate,” Davidson said.
He wrote “The Ledge” not only to honor Price but also to inspire people to “draw some strength and resilience from the story to help them face their own challenges.”
His career as a motivational speaker and author was born from this harrowing experience and his 20 years as an environmental geologist.
“About 10 years ago I steered my life toward becoming a speaker and writer so I could share lessons learned in the crucible of the mountains,” Davidson said.
A human interest story
Kevin Vaughan, veteran journalist and Pulitzer Prize finalist, saw one of Davidson’s speeches at The Northern Colorado Writers Conference. Describing when he first heard Davidson speak, Vaughan remembers “I was mesmerized and thought, ‘I want to write that story.’”
Part of its appeal was that it was something so far outside of his regular activities.
“I have never been climbing, and I never will be climbing — at least the kind that involves harnesses and ropes,” Vaughan said.
For Vaughan, best known for his work “The Crossing,” a report on the 1961 school bus and train crash that killed 20 children, “The Ledge” is the best type of human interest story. To Vaughan, “this story had it all — action, tragedy, loss, grief, recovery, determination, mystery (would Jim survive?) ... in short, everything.”
“The Ledge” will appeal to anyone seeking their next adventure or to those looking to learn about a new sport. According to Davidson, there are enormous benefits to climbing; it “is a form of moving meditation,” he said. The intensity of the sport “brings about clarity of mind and spirit” and it “inspires people to visit remote locales of natural beauty,” Davidson said.
‘The joy was still there’
The Bookworm of Edwards event will allow glimpses into the beautiful scenes Davidson and Price saw, as well as introduce the audience to the joys and sorrows of ice climbing. Davidson describes the wonder of climbing, but acknowledges that his recovery process following Price’s death on Mount Rainier was slow and uncertain.
“I basically went back to the basics to see if I could return to the mountains and if I even wanted to,” Davidson recalls.
Despite these uncertainties, Davidson felt the pull of the mountains, and when he returned to ice climbing, he discovered that “the joy was still there.”
This personal development allowed him to start his new career and inspire people like Vaughan who are “intensely interested in the things that shape people — the experiences (good and bad) that play out in our lives.”
One of Davidson’s key messages in his speeches is that “we have a real small comfort range, but a real big survival range.” Messages like these inspire his listeners to “take action,” an essential part of Davidson’s escape from the glacier crevice into which he and Price fell.
Ripples from one moment in time
Vaughan and Davidson’s co-authorship was born from this need to act.
“I think about June 21, 1992, on Mount Rainier as a stone that hit the pond in Jim’s life,” Vaughan said. “I was curious to see what the ripples looked like that were still coming off that moment in time.”
Those ripples shape the immense wisdom included in each of Davidson’s presentations. These lessons are rife in “The Ledge.”
“I think it can touch people in a deeply human way, tell each of us about ourselves and the human experience and maybe give us a new perspective on things,” Vaughan said.
Some of these pearls of wisdom will be shared at the Bookworm on Wednesday, when Davidson and Vaughan will discuss the book, the event that inspired it and the life that was lost. According to Vaughan, the presentation is “part historical perspective, part book reading, part fireside chat.”
If you are an adrenaline junkie, outdoor fanatic or interested in meeting one of the greatest adventurers of the early 21st century, come to the Bookworm to hear why Vaughan was inspired and to hear Davidson discuss “who my climbing partner Mike Price was, how we came to be inside the glacier and how I managed to eventually crawl out alone,” he said.
Leigh Bennett Horton is an intern at The Bookworm of Edwards and a student at the Colorado School of Mines. Email comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.