The high mountains exemplify immensity, intensity, and inspiration. In essence, I climb to seek awe.
Climbing books aren't usually at the top of my reading list, but after I met Jim Davidson last year (he is my neighbor) and heard about his adventures, I had to read his book. The quote above is one of the things that kept me reading, especially as I wondered why anyone would subject themselves to the brutal conditions of Everest: it's awe.
The idea of awe has been on my mind this year after reading this article from the BBC about how awe and wonder positively affect our well-being, memory, and creativity, and may help with anxiety.
Anyway, Davidson is a relentless pursuer of awe at the tops of mountains, even when faced with the most difficult of circumstances. His previous bestselling book, The Ledge, details a tragic climbing expedition that left his friend dead and him climbing out of a deep crevasse to survive.
In The Next Everest, Davidson tells of his attempt to climb Everest in 2015--a lifelong dream cut short by the largest earthquake in Nepal in 81 years. Almost 9,000 people died, and Davidson was stranded on the mountain. He made it off in a dicey rescue and wasn't sure he'd ever be able to return. He did, in 2017, and he tells the story of leaving a devastated Nepal in 2015, training and working up the courage to return, and finally reaching the summit in 2017.
I didn't know much about Everest before, including the long process of acclimatizing and making short expeditions before the big push to the summit. Davidson also has great respect for the people and landscape of Nepal; Everest is important to the economy and he respects his place in supporting it and keeping the mountain clean and healthy for future climbers.
So while his story didn't leave me with a desire to start climbing, I learned a great deal about Nepal, Everest, and what it takes to reach the top.
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A dramatic account of the deadly earthquake on Everest–and a return to reach the summit.
On April 25, 2015, Jim Davidson was climbing Mount Everest when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake released avalanches all around him and his team, destroying their only escape route and trapping them at nearly 20,000 feet. It was the largest earthquake in Nepal in eighty-one years and killed about 8,900 people. That day also became the deadliest in the history of Everest, with eighteen people losing their lives on the mountain.
After spending two unsettling days stranded on Everest, Davidson’s team was rescued by helicopter. The experience left him shaken, and despite his thirty-three years of climbing and serving as an expedition leader, he wasn’t sure that he would ever go back. But in the face of risk and uncertainty, he returned in 2017 and finally achieved his dream of reaching the summit.
Suspenseful and engrossing, The Next Everest portrays the experience of living through the biggest disaster to ever hit the mountain. Davidson’s background in geology and environmental science makes him uniquely qualified to explain how this natural disaster unfolded and why the seismic threats lurking beneath Nepal are even greater today. But this story is not about “conquering” the world’s highest peak. Instead, it reveals how embracing change, challenge, and uncertainty prepares anyone to face their “next Everest” in life.