Forever On The Mountain
WW Norton & Company
In the summer of 1967, 24 year old Joe Wilcox led a fragmented 12 man team to Denali. In the course of the expedition 7 members were stranded near the summit by what was possibly the worst storm ever on the mountain. One that lasted for 10 days. Over that time no rescue was mounted, all 7 perished and their bodies were never recovered. At the time this was the largest mountaineering disaster ever.
Tabor works his story like a good detective novel; introducing the characters, bringing out the basic details and then digging in deeper and deeper, to finally expose the real story-behind-the-story. In his quest for the truth no one is spared from his detective-like scrutiny - the expedition members, the National Park Service, hundreds of pages of meterological records, radio logs and transcripts, government documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, Accidents In North American Mountaineering, and even New England's beloved father figure of mountaineering - Bradford Washburn. Amazingly enough this scrutiny may actually cast a shadow on Washburn's legacy!
The Park Service investigation, held a scant few weeks after the incident and never interviewing any of the survivors, was a whitewash for the Service and placed the blame on expedition leader Wilcox. Because of this, the error laden writeup in Accidents In North American Mountainering, and behind the scenes lobbying by Washburn that verdict has been generally considered the correct assessment. Author James Tabor's book shines a harsh spotlight on the entire incident and what took place before and after it, throwing this conclusion totally out the window and painting what is quite a different picture than that was painted 40+ years ago.
Tabor's book is well written and engaging. While it would seem hard to get all that worked up about an incident from 41 years ago, Forever On The Mountain got my interest and kept it for 432 pages.
trade paperback / 5 1/2" x 8 1/4" / 432 pages