An Interview with Jim Davidson
UPDATE: We have just learned that Jim is embarking for Kilimanjaro! We wish him a successful climb and will keep his fans posted as he sends us images and more information.
We were fortunate enough to get to interview Jim Davidson recently, someone who will very soon be standing on the roof of the world:
An experienced mountaineer with 32 years of high-altitude climbs, rescues, and dramatic survival situations, Jim has summitted the sixth
highest peak in the world (Cho Oyu at 26,906 feet in Tibet), climbed and been on expeditions to Alaska, Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico and Nepal.
Jim is fully trained in avalanche safety, vertical rescue, wilderness first aid, and as an expedition leader, ice climbing instructor, and mountain rescuer: he has a very impressive resume.
He has put his own life on the line so as to volunteer and rescue other climbers and hikers many times. He is been commended twice by the
U.S. National Park Service for leadership and personal sacrifice on mountain rescues, and even saved himself from an 80-feet deep fall inside a glacial crevasse.
Jim’s inspiring survival story is featured in a one-hour episode of
“I Shouldn’t Be Alive“ on Animal Planet. The name of the episode was “Killer Crevasse” (2011).
Editor: We appreciate you taking the time to speak to us, Jim. We know you have a tight schedule. How and when did you develop an interest in mountaineering?
Jim Davidson: I started backpacking in 1981, and that led to me trying
rock climbing in Massachusetts in 1982. When I moved to Montana to attend college I took up ice climbing, and I have been hooked ever since. I went on my first expedition in 1986 to Aconcagua in Argentina.
Editor: You’re an author, Resilience Expert, adventure speaker and an expedition leader. Combining all these roles must give you a great insight and deep wisdom into life and how to help motivate people. How do you handle stress or tension on important climbs?
Jim Davidson: I find there are a few key steps to dealing with tension. The first is to look inside yourself and ask “What exactly am I tense about?” Sometimes it is an external factor like the weather, but often it is about yourself and your abilities.
Second, I try to contain the concern to that one issue – don’t let it spread laterally through your mind and behaviors. These management techniques do not eliminate the anxiety, but they allow you to compartmentalize it and keep it under control.
Editor: You will be climbing Everest in 2015. How do you mentally prepare to climb the world’s highest mountain?
Jim Davidson: After more than a dozen high-altitude expeditions, I first make sure that my gear, my plans, and my physical conditioning are all fully prepared. Once those are well organized, then I do big endurance climbs to build mental toughness in the last month before departure. By doing all those things first, I remove a lot of uncertainty and angst that might mentally get me off track. Then I focus on visualizing the challenges and difficulties ahead. I begin to embrace the work, pain and discomfort that will arise so that I am not surprised or overwhelmed when things get tough.
Editor: Why Everest? What draws you emotionally to that particular mountain? Was this something you planned early on in your life?
Jim Davidson: I became aware of Everest at about age 8 while flipping through racks of National Geographic Magazines in my parents basement. With my Dad’s encouragement, I read lots of polar exploration and mountaineering books as a teenager, and that firmly planted a seed about Everest in my young mind. Over 32 years, I have done a variety of climbing, but high snowy peaks call to me most strongly. Mount Everest is the ultimate peak in that regard.
Mountains are sacred and special places. Having the chance to visit them, if only as a momentary visitor, brings strength, peace and joy to my heart.
Editor: Who are your mountaineering icons, the ones you look to for inspiration?
Jim Davidson: For me, there are two types of icons: the great, idealized mountaineering heroes, and then the down to earth climbers that I know, and am fortunate to climb with. In the first category I look up to Reinhold Messner, Joe Simpson and Jeff Lowe.
On a more personal level, I am inspired by my long-term partners Rodney
Ley, Alan Arnette, my deceased friend Mike Price, and many other solid climbers. These guys show me how to keep climbing, hold me accountable, and together we motivate each other to climb harder and do
Editor: What are your feelings towards the Sherpa community?
How important is their contribution in the world of Everest mountaineers? Will you be using porters?
Jim Davidson: After three previous trips to Nepal, I have great respect for the Sherpa people and other Nepalese (many porters and guides are of Sherpa ethnicity, but not all). They and their ancestors have been living in the area around Everest for centuries. Traveling visitors are always wise listen to the immense knowledge of the local people.
The Sherpa people have been crucial to exploration and climbing in the Himalayas for many decades now. More recently, their skill level has risen and they have been taking on more senior roles – I think this pattern will continue. Like most 8000 meter climbers before me, I will be counting on the support of local people as cooks, porters, guides and sirdars.
I think of the Sherpas up on the mountain as teammates or partners, like the other climbing partners I have had over the years. Although the Sherpa partners are paid to be there and play more of a guiding role, like all partners, we will climb together and watch out for each other on the mountain.
The deep involvement of local people in Himalayan climbing is quite different than everywhere else in the world. In almost every other mountain range, all the climbers that I know are self-sufficient and limit their reliance upon local people to logistics, transport and, on occasion, to base camp security or base camp cooking. But, in the Himalayas of Nepal, the Sherpa people are much more involved and integrated into the expeditions.
Editor: Your amazing story is described in a new adventure memoir that you co-authored with Pulitzer-finalist journalist, Kevin Vaughan. It is titled “The Ledge: An Adventure Story of Friendship and Survival on Mount
Rainier”, Ballantine Books/Random House, 2011.
The Ledge won the National Outdoor Book Award and Amazon selected it as one of the Best Books of the Year.
Where can fans obtain this book?
Jim Davidson: They can buy The Ledge at their favorite independent bookstore, as well as online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other web sites. The Ledge is also available as an e-book and audiobook. When I narrated the audio book, I thought it would be easy to just read the book out loud. But, I found spending 55 hours alone in a tiny sound booth to be quite trying. It was like being trapped in a storm bound tent!
Order a copy of Jim's book here on Amazon:
Editor: Some people see Everest as a mountain to be climbed,
with the focus entirely on the climber and not as much on the spiritual aspect of climbing. It is truly impressive that you see the great mountains as sacred and worthy of respect. Climbing Everest changes us emotionally and spiritually, because nothing compares to standing at the top, as well as every single step and breath it takes to get there. It is a tough task master, and takes so much out of the ones who wish to climb it. We are mere humans, but the great mountains have been around for so long. Just looking at them creates much humility in our hearts.
Do you find that the magic of Sagarmatha (Mount Everest) will create a special place in your heart for it?
Jim Davidson: To even see the roof of the world from afar with my own eyes is a gift. If I get to climb just one hundred feet above base camp, I will consider myself lucky to have had the chance to connect with Sagarmatha. If I train hard enough, endure long enough, and remain open to the entire experience, then perhaps I will get a few precious minutes atop Mount Everest. It is the closest that I can get to the stars and heaven while I am still on Earth.
No matter what happens, I will carry the experience in my heart, head and soul the rest of my days.
Editor: We will conclude this interview with your own enigmatic words:
“Climbing Mount Everest requires that you become as strong and as resilient as you possibly can. Then you climb your best, spending all your strength in the process. Maybe you summit, maybe you don’t. Either way, the harsh challenge will demand all that you have, all that you are. And this fire of experience tempers you into something stronger, someone more resilient. So summit or not, you will have more resilience for every challenge, setback and opportunity that you encounter for the rest of your life.
My attempt to scale the world’s highest mountain is about
resilience. The resilience needed to prepare for Everest. The resilience tests that I’ll encounter on Everest. The resilience I can bring back from Everest.”
Thank you for giving us a chance to learn how valuable resilience can be in our lives, Jim. We will be following your journey via your blog, Facebook and your website.
We hope to do a follow up interview with you as well. We extend our best wishes to you on this most epic of personal journeys.
To follow Jim’s Everest trip go to:
Interview conducted by Vera Kaikobad L. Ac.
Editor of the Facebook page: 'An Interview With'.
Editor-in-Chief of ClimbSkiBoulderMagazine.com
Interview © Vera Kaikobad L. Ac.
All images © of the designated photographer and used with Jim's written permission.
On the Cover: Jim Davidson
Cover Date: November 4th, 2014
Check out this amazing link about Jim's dream to climb Everest!
Click here: Tomer's Trails: 30 Year Dream