During all the years he dreamed of climbing Mount Everest, Jim Davidson could never fully comprehend what an incredible mental and physical grind it would require.
Now – after planting his climbing boot on the top of the world – he knows.
In all, Davidson spent about two months on the other side of the world in the quest to achieve the one climbing goal he’s carried since he was a young man.
He spent only about a third of that time actually climbing.
“We probably only climbed 20 of the 60 days, trekked about 20 of the 60 days, and waited in base camp about 25 of those sixty days,” Davidson, a Fort Collins resident, told 9NEWS. “And it's just grindingly exhausting to just sit there every day, watch your muscles melt away, and look at the clock.
“So as a result, patience was what I had to learn most on this trip, and it's not my strong point through the years but I think I improved at it a little bit due to having to get better at it this time.”
A case in point: After a series of high-altitude rotations to build his stamina for the summit push, he and his team retreated to Base Camp – situated at an elevation of about 17,500 feet – to wait for a break in the weather that would allow for a five- or six-day summit push.
They hoped that break would come in four or five days. Instead, they waited nearly 12 days before conditions allowed them to begin the effort to get to the top.
PHOTOS: Climber Jim Davidson is returning to Everest
Passing the time involved “everything we could think of,” Davidson said.
“By then the food gotten a little boring,” he said. “We had movie night every night in an old army tent. Read. Wrote. And basically took turns lifting each other up. Somebody would be down and it would be your job – nah, we're going to get this, the weather's going to get better – and then two days later you reversed roles, so really just trying to support each other and hang in there for the duration of the waiting.”
It also meant thinking about the fact that climbers died in the pursuit of the same dream.
“We become aware of them pretty quick when someone passes away on or near Everest, and it affects the community – I mean everybody's down and it causes everybody to kind of pause and be a little introspective,” he said. “So it's a real warning that it's a big dangerous mountain and we're all subject to the whims of the mountain.”
But it’s a reality that he has faced for as long as he’s been climbing – one he’s known first hand since an accident on Mount Rainier in 1992 killed his climbing partner and good friend, Mike Price.
He walked away from climbing for a while after that accident, returning slowing after several years and ultimately concluding that it was an essential part of who he is.
And once he did, the goal was always Everest.
He achieved that goal on May 21, at 4:52 p.m. Denver time. After he reached the top of the world’s highest peak, he posted a simple message on social media: “I'm standing on the roof of the world! The summit of Mount Everest at 29,035 feet! You can achieve anything through #Resilience!”
He spent about 15 minutes on top, then began the relatively quick trek down – five days later, he was sipping a cold beer on his back deck in Fort Collins with his family and closest friends.
“The dream right now is to sit by a lake with my wife and kids and dog and just be by the water and sit in the sun,” he said. “So, no mountaineering plans yet for sure. I'm sure I will climb something else down the line, but nothing big on the horizon.
“I just want to relax a little while and give myself and my family a chance to kind of recover and regroup.”
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.