I am honored to kick of Free Range Friday with author/speaker/adventurer Jim Davidson. His Book, The Ledge: An Inspirational Story of Friendship and Survival is a not only a gripping tale of personal tragedy, but also of his will to overcome seemingly insurmantable odds to save his own life and honor the life of his climbing partner.
The Ledge is a must read for any outdoor adventure lover and is an inspirational story of human strength and purpose for those who prefer to remain grounded at the lower elevations.
1) You wrote The Ledge with Kevin Vaughn. Was there ever a time you thought about writing the story by yourself?
Yes, I made some earlier runs at writing it myself, and I made some progress. But, I was not yet ready to write the full story and I was too much of a fact-driven science writer to delve into the more interesting human elements. So, I took a lot of writing classes, gained some perspective over time, and then met Kevin – a great writer and a great partner. All the pieces were in place.
2) Would you consider a solo project in the future, or is the tandem writing experience one you find best for you?
Working on The Ledge as co-authors was a great experience. One of us would write a chapter while the second person wrote the next chapter in sequence. Then we would critique and edit each other for dozens of rounds until moving on to the next two chapters. I relish having worked with Kevin, and I hope that we do more together. However, we both recognize that as our careers and lives shift, that may not be possible. So, I would be happy to write my next big project alone, too.
3) How have things gone with The Ledge since its July 2011 publication?
It has been a wild and wonderful ride. Kevin and I did book readings and presentations across the country and a few internationally. The book just won the National Outdoor Book Award for Outdoor Literature. It became a best seller for Random House/Ballantine Books, and we recently sold through all the hard covers. The Ledge was translated into Italian and it also just came out in paperback (English) with a new epilogue http://www.speakingofadventure.com/the-ledge/
4) Last summer you returned to Mt. Rainier for the first time since the accident. Tell us a little about that.
Going back to climb Mount Rainier again some twenty years after the accident that took my friend’s life was monumental. Though I have scaled many higher and harder peaks around the world than Rainier in the intervening two decades, Mount Rainier and its glaciers are powerful for me. So I did what I always do – train hard, and bring my most trusted partners.
The trip was mostly good fun with my climbing buddies, but there were some moments heavy with emotion and rich with symbolism. The most amazing was stepping back onto the Emmons Glacier – the treacherous ice sheet that took Mike’s life and almost killed me. There are more personal details and striking photos here: http://www.speakingofadventure.com/blog/
5) Back in 1980 Mt. St. Helens erupted, removing over 1,300 vertical feet from the summit. A good friend of mine had yet to climb St. Helens and now he sees his post-climb summit as somewhat of an asterisk in his climbing adventures. Have you had any similar climbing experiences that left you wondering, “What if?”
I have climbed a few routes that later fell down – one in Rocky Mountain National Park. With my wife, Gloria, I spent several days on a small island in Thailand (Ko Phi Phi) that was devastated by the tsunami. Having been in a remote place that is later obliterated through natural activities makes me feel small and transient. As a geologist myself, I understand how geologic time marches on, how our time here is fleeting, and so I believe that we must do good work and enjoy our life while it lasts.
6) If all the mountains in world were flattened and climbing was no longer possible, what activity would take in its place?
Sail the seas. My parents taught me to love the ocean and my Dad taught me a bit about boats. There would be natural hazards, challenges to overcome and lessons to be learned. Yes, I think I’d like that.
Jim has provided a signed paperback copy of The Ledge: An Inspirational Story of Friendship and Survival to be given to one lucky reader who leaves a comment about today’s post. The winner will be announced on next week’s Free Range Friday post. Leave a means of contact in your comment or check back next week to find out if you’re the winner.
My thanks to Jim for his contribution to Free Range Friday.
To learn more about Jim, The Ledge, and his public speaking business, “Speaking of Adventure,” visit his website at: www.speakingofadventure.com