Fort Collins climber Jim Davidson is a man on the move – but right now he’s sitting in Base Camp on Mount Everest with nothing to do but wait.
He and others hoping to make a summit attempt need a five- to six-day window of good weather, and it’s not clear yet when – or even if – that will come.
“We’re still on schedule,” Davidson said Monday morning, Colorado time, by satellite phone from Everest Base Camp. “We were ahead of schedule for a while. We just kind of drifted back to on schedule … but generally speaking things are progressing on the mountain and, we’re, you know, down in base camp, resting up, getting ready to go.”
Fort Collins man gets closer to summiting Mount Everest
Now it’s a matter of the weather.
“It’s a long, grinding process,” he said. “You need a lot of patience. I mean you got to have the tenacity and the resilience to push through no matter what the weather may throw at you or whatever obstacles may get in your path. But you also have to have the calmness … to go, OK, the weather’s not in our favor, we're just going to sit here in Base Camp for three days, or six days, or 10 days or whatever it takes.
“And so that's probably the biggest growth, growth opportunity for me, is to learn to adapt to just sitting and waiting ‘til the time is right. It can be a real challenge when you want to be a go-go for the summit type of person.”
Davidson has been gone from home for nearly seven weeks. It is second attempt to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain – the first was aborted in 2015 after an earthquake devastated the region, killing more than 20 climbers in Base Camp and ending climbing for the year.
This time around, he has been through multiple high-altitude rotations, climbing as high as Camp Three at an elevation of 23,625. Monday he was back in Case Camp, situated at an altitude of 17,500, waiting.
This attempt has meant dealing with high winds, with a nagging high-altitude cough and with the emotions after the loss of Swiss climber Ueli Steck, a man he greatly admired who fell to his death while preparing for an attempt to summit Everest from the seldom-used West Ridge route. Just days before his death, Davidson had shot video of Steck climbing above Camp Two.
“To me it was just kind of a magical gift just to watch him climb,” he said. “There was one of the best climbers in the world right there in front of my eyes above us at Camp Two, heading up towards the infamous West Ridge.”
Davidson said he has thought a good deal about Steck’s death.
“You have to face it and considerate it and ask yourself what it means about life and about your own life, kind of take some lessons from it,” he said.
But he also had to reorient his own focus to the task before him – when the weather clears, he’s got to be ready for what is expected to be a five-day effort to reach the summit (elevation 29,029).
LISTEN: Jim's entire conversation with 9NEWS reporter Kevin Vaughan, from Everest
He admitted that there have been days when he’s wondered to himself why he was doing it.
“Yes,” he said, laughing. “It comes up on a regular basis. It may come up because you slept poorly or because of a storm, or because it’s just kind of grinding you down. Yeah I'd say over approximately 50 days or so I’ve probably had those kind of thoughts on three or four days, because it is kind of difficult.
“But, you know, then the next day is a good day and you have some fun on the mountain or you see something amazing, so all in all it’s a positive package but there are definitely those down days and that's when you really have to kind of look inside and remind yourself that it’s a long journey, it’s a lifelong dream so it’s not going to come easy, and you just kind of have to renew your dedication to do what’s necessary to try and reach that dream.”
Editor’s note: 9Wants to Know investigative reporter Kevin Vaughan is following Jim Davidson’s effort to climb Mount Everest and will be providing periodic updates on his progress. Vaughan and Davidson are co-authors of the New York Times Best Seller “The Ledge,” which examines a 1992 climbing accident on Mount Rainier that killed Davidson’s best friend and left him facing a seemingly impossible fight to save himself.