Publisher: Ballantine Books, 2011
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Adventure/Survival
Where I Got It: Amazon Vine
Why I Read It: I’m a huge fan of real-life survival stories, especially ones that take place on mountains.
My Rating: 4 stars
The Ledge tells the story of Jim Davidson and Mike Price’s ascent of Mt. Rainier and the accident that left them trapped 80 feet down a crevasse after a snow bridge collapsed (Price did not survive). The first part of the book sets the stage for the fall into the crevasse and provides background on Davidson and Price. We then move to the heart of the book, which is the ascent of Mt. Rainier (in which Davidson and Price tried a risky new ascent route) and the accident that takes place after they summit. As they are descending the mountain, Davidson stepped on a snow bridge that collapsed and plunged him and Price 80-feet into a crevasse. Landing on a small ledge (in what turns out to be a “one in a million” bit of luck), the fall, Price’s death, and Davidson’s extremely technical climb out of the crevasse with limited equipment and under extreme duress occupies about two-thirds of the narrative.
The Ledge is a fine addition to the mountaineering/survival book canon. Written by Jim Davidson and his co-writer (journalist Kevin Vaughan), The Ledge provides a “you are there” feel that all the best adventure/survival books have. The writing and pacing is first-rate, and I found myself breathless and tense as Davidson dealt with Price’s death, his dawning realization that he had to climb or die, and his subsequent struggle to climb out of the crevasse.
Like all good survival books (such as Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air and Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm), The Ledge fills the reader with adrenaline, tension and fear. You really feel drawn into Davidson’s dilemma and struggle as he tries to keep himself together and attempt a climb that he feels is far beyond his capabilities. Davidson doesn’t hold anything back—sharing all his doubts, fears, grief, and despair as well as his strength, inspiration and will to live. I also found it interesting that one of the things that helped push Davidson to soldier on was his remembrance of another mountaineering survival book, Touching the Void by Joe Simpson (which details Simpson’s account of his near-death experience in the Peruvian Andes.)
The final part of the book deals with Davidson’s struggles to come to terms with the accident and Price’s death after his rescue. I was glad that Davidson included this in the book as I think it provides meaningful insights into grief, getting your life back on track after a major tragedy and a glimpse into the type of life that Davidson leads today (he is an inspirational speaker).
The only drawback might be some of the technical climbing terms and equipment that are referenced throughout the book. Although the authors do their best to explain everything in layman’s terms, I didn’t fully appreciate what Davidson managed to do as much as my brother (an experienced climber). However, I don’t think this should keep you from reading what is a very accessible book.
Fans of real-life survival stories, climbers and mountaineers (I gave my ARC to my brother, who ended up going out and buying his own copy so he could see all the photos) and readers who enjoy inspirational books that illustrate how people can dig deep and find hidden reserves of strength in times of great duress.
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