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Geologist and mountain climber shares story of friendship, tragedy, and resilience

August 29, 2011
by Meagan Templeton-Lynch ('12)

On the surface, Jim Davidson (M.S. '88) seems like an average Fort Collins man - one who loves nature and adventure, his family, and CSU. But unlike the average man, he makes a living telling his extraordinary story as an environmental geologist and expedition climber, survivor, partner, and friend.

Death and transfiguration

On June 21, 1992, his friend, climbing partner, and fellow CSU alumnus Mike Price (B.A. ’81, M.A. ’87) lost his life on a climb with Davidson at Mount Rainier, Wash. Price died as a result of an 80-foot fall down a hidden glacial crevasse that almost claimed Davidson’s life as well.

Almost 20 years later, Davidson is finally at peace with what happened that day and has turned the tragedy into an uplifting story to teach people the importance of resilience and relationships, which he says is a major message in his new book, The Ledge: An Adventure Story of Friendship and Survival on Mount Rainier (co-authored by Kevin Vaughan from the Denver Post).

The book, which took Davidson and Vaughan nearly 2-½ years to complete, was a process that was painful at times. “Writing the book was difficult because of course it was a lot of work, but even more so because I had to dig back into the memories of that accident and the emotions and feelings of that accident,” Davidson says. “It took us a while to go through the layers of memory and meaning to find the lessons. So it’s an adventure story but it’s also about how do you find resilience and how do you put your life back together after the fact.”

A human story of survival 

The book was released on July 26, 2011. “Now that it’s [finishing the book] over I’m most happy about the fact that we’ve been able to share something about my partner, Mike Price,” Davidson says. “So we’ve been able to tell the world a little about my partner, Mike, the kind of guy he was; share this human story of survival I had; and hope people find a little value in the book and have them use it to face tragedy in their own lives.”

As a full-time speaker and writer, Davidson has been able to mold his experience into an inspirational story to aid others in dealing with their own hardships – whatever those may be, says Davidson. “In the book and in my talks, I share an adventure story – the drama and the cool pictures and the cool stories that drive the story forward. But really, the lessons that I share are about resilience, which is when you encounter a difficult moment, how you draw the strength to get through it, and once you get through that difficult period or over that challenge, how you rebuild and reform a life that is a good life again,” Davidson says. “Because that is what I learned mostly from this experience on Rainier: how resilient human beings are. We can do amazing things when we’re pressed, even when the situation seems impossible.”

A teacher and leader

In addition to motivational speaking and writing, Davidson has served as a co-leader for the Outdoor Program at CSU – a program he and Price participated in as students. He trains and takes students on expeditions around the world: Nepal, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Mexico. He also helps teach CSU students to ice climb and elementary school students to climb on a rock wall. “Part of what I’ve learned from surviving that experience was the importance of personal relationships and friendship and love of family members, so as a result that’s gotten me to give back a little more,” Davidson says. “I don’t do that for money, I do that for the love of teaching and hanging out with young climbers.”

Davidson, who lives in Fort Collins with his wife, Gloria, and their two children, had a 19-year career as a geologist – concentrating on cleaning up contaminated ground water. While he now only does one or two geology projects a year so he can focus on speaking and writing, he says he still loves and misses it. Davidson is also still heavily into climbing, and has been for 29 years.

Spotlight on CSU: Jim Davidson

Join us Wed., Sept. 7, to hear Jim Davidson’s talk, “Rallying Resilience: Lessons from CSU Climbing Adventures,” on the CSU campus. Hear his heartbreaking and uplifting story of survival, friendship, and resilience. Purchase a signed copy of The Ledge, as well as receive a powerful lesson from Davidson’s adventures to take home with you.

5:15-6 p.m. Book Signing and Reception
6-7 p.m. Presentation

University Center for the Arts
Organ Recital Hall (2nd Floor)
1400 Remington Street
Fort Collins, CO

$5/members; $10/nonmembers. No charge for students.

RSVP at the website. For more information call (970) 491-6533.

Contact: Ginger Morehouse
Phone: 491-6533