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Content warning: frostbite, crevasses, heights, death, cancer, heart attack
Climbing Mount Everest, know as Chomolungma in Nepal, is considered a great achievement for any climber. After training for years, author Jim Davidson finally has his chance at the peak. But in 2015, an earthquake hits, making an already tenuous climb that much dangerous.
Two years pass and Davidson resolves to make one more run for the summit. This autobiographical account of both climbs covers much territory, from the personal experiences of the climbs themselves, to the state of Nepal before, during, and after, and personal anecdotes about the people who touched Davidson’s life throughout his climbing career.
Moving, harrowing, but told with much reverence and humility, a great entry into the canon of Mount Everest climbing stories..
This reflective work feels more autobiographical than others that I have read. We learn all about Davidson, from his upbringing with his father who was a house painter, to how he and wife, Gloria, met, to the tragedy at Mt. Rainier, to his relationship with his fellow climbing community and the Sherpa people who guide the climbers up Everest. The pacing and unfolding of the narrative, especially the relationship aspects, works so well.
But it is also a deep reflection on grief and trauma. Humanizing the statistics around the number of people who die every season on Everest adds another layer of depth to this work. The danger is palpable, but respectfully human. And the ways Davidson speaks about works on both a prose and storytelling level. It’s humble and reverent. Plus, he has a real knack for contextualizing information that comes up as numbers rather than individual stories.
Simple in its telling with several insights that go beyond climbing, definitely recommended to someone in search of another read like Into Thin Air that’s as much about the people on Everest as it is about the mountain itself.