The Ledge – An Adventure Story of Friendship and Survival on Mount Rainier
By: Jim Davidson & Kevin Vaughan
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (July 26, 2011)
“An iconic symbol of America, Mt. Rainier is located 90 miles away outside of Seattle, Washington. Each year about two million visitors walk it’s flanks and about 10,000 climbers cross its many glaciers in an effort to scale the 14,410-foot peak. About 60% of those climbers reach the top.
Jim Davidson and Mike Price, two friends and experienced climbing partners, summited Mount Rainier by the difficult Liberty Ridge route on June 21, 1992. As they descended the Emmons Glacier, without warning, a snowbridge collapsed beneath Jim’s feet and dropped him into a huge, hidden glacial crevasse.
As Jim plummeted, Mike tried to stop him but couldn’t. The two friends dropped 80 feet into the glacier and were buried by falling snow. Mike did not survive.
Buried in snow and trapped in the crevasse, Jim was alone. Devastated at the loss of his friend, Jim was surrounded by ice and fear. Jim had to climb the frozen, overhanging walls of the crevasse, or die trying.”
I was hooked after reading the first sentence, “I peered off the ledge into blackness.” The prologue’s gripping start makes it impossible to the book down.
The Ledge is well written story of adventure and does a good job building Jim and Mike’s back characters. To understand how they handled events on that faithful day, the book needed to reflect on their past experiences in climbing and life. It was as if everything in Jim’s life prepared him to confront the life or death situation he was put in after falling into an 80 foot crevasse.
Mike not surviving the fall, Jim had only himself to rely on if he was going to survive. He did all the right things, talking himself through the situation, referencing his training including rock, ice climbing, mountaineering, wilderness first aid, experience scaling electric poles, and building while working for his Dad. His efforts in the crevasse transcends to readers. Most can relate to a time in their lives where they had to use everything they have learned to make a situation better.
You can also prepare all you want, as Jim and Mike did for their technical climb of Mt. Rainier’s ‘Liberty Route,’ but sometimes freak accidents happen. They knew that falling into a crevasse was a possibility. They had vast technical climbing experience, knew how to self arrest and even practiced the Z-Pulley system before their Mt. Rainier trip. Jim said it best, “No matter what Hollywood movies suggest, no climber in the world can haul his partner back up a cliff, or out of a crevasse, without mechanical help.”
The Ledge is a gripping and emotional story of friendship and survival. I shutter even thinking about being in the same situation. Anyone who has ever done any mountain, rock or ice climbing can fully appreciate the skill, determination and mental fortitude it took for Jim to save himself.
That being said, even if you have never climbed a physical mountain, you will appreciate The Ledge. We all climb one mountain or another in life. After all, it is not what happens to you, it is how you handle the situation and what you learn from it.
“The most important things I learned were not about scaling overhanging ice walls but about what allowed me to climb out of that crevasse. Life is full of scary crevasses. Illness, accidents, and financial disasters can appear without warning. Seemingly secure institutions like banks, businesses, and marriages, collapse, just like snow bridges weakened by the sun. AT some time, everyone will fall into one of life’s crevasses; mine just happened to be a crack in the ice. Crawling out of these crevasses, overcoming life’s challenges is something each of us must face. Finding resilience for surviving and thriving through adversity is part of everyone’s climb.” – Jim Davidson
The Ledge is more than just an inspirational adventure- survival story. Once you pick it up, you won’t want to put it down.