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Forever on the Mountain: The Truth Behind One of Mountaineering's Most Controversial and Mysterious Disasters
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Forever on the Mountain: The Truth Behind One of Mountaineering's Most Controversial and Mysterious Disasters

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  801 ratings  ·  85 reviews
Ten days passed with no rescue attempt, while more than half an expedition was stranded and dying at 20,000 feet during a vicious Arctic storm. The bodies were never recovered. And, for reasons that have remained cloudy, there was no proper official investigation of the catastrophe.


This book begins as a classic tale of men against nature, gambling—and losing—on one of the
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Hardcover, 432 pages
Published July 17th 2007 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published June 20th 2007)
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Suman
James M. Tabor suffers from two problems in this book: he doesn't have enough mountaineering experience to adequately understand what happened in this disaster, and he can't write. Since the story is about the somewhat mysterious deaths of seven of twelve members of a 1967 American expedition to Denali and a botched and confusing rescue attempt by the National Park Service (NPS), the only qualifications needed to write a great book about this expedition are:

1) Mountaineering experience to unders
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Jim
Don't know why I am interested in high-altitude mountaineering (when you will never see me do it), except that it usually provides a compelling story about individuals struggling against difficult odds. This book is well-written and informative, keeps the reader interested in the fate of the participants, before and after the central events, and ends up being more about leadership, personality, and ego. The author's intent, beyond describing the ordeal of twelve men (seven of whom died) while st ...more
Matt
"Those who travel to mountain tops are half in love with themselves, and half in love with oblivion."
-- Robert MacFarlane, Mountains of the Mind

Forever on the Mountain tells the story of 12 young men who went up Denali (Mt. McKinley, for you white people) in 1967. Only five came back down. The fate of the seven left on the mountain is not known, beyond the fact that they died.

The expedition was led by 24 year-old Joe Wilcox. He had a nine-man team ready to go when he was contacted by 22 year-
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Linda
This true story of a 1967 mountaineering disaster on Denali is a real page-turner. The author, a mountaneer himself, is a skilled writer who makes you feel as if you are a member of this ill-fated expedition. With excellent illustrations of their route, you are drawn in to every aspect of this journey, from the planning, the interpersonal struggles, the grueling camp-to-camp treks of men and supplies, the summit reach, and beyond. Written with great detail and a clear head, he painstakingly unco ...more
Kaelie
Oct 14, 2008 Kaelie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Kaelie by: Bethann
An excellent (and very well-written) look at a disastrous expedition to Mt. McKinley in 1967. Tabor's meticulous research and excellent writing brought this story alive in all its tragic detail, thoroughly exploring the problems that beset the expedition both from within and without. I was especially fascinated by his careful descriptions of the people in the 12 man party and their personality clashes, and I appreciated the detail about the actual nuts and bolts of such an operation -- what the ...more
Cheryl C
May 13, 2008 Cheryl C rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in high altitude mountaineering
I was interviewed by the author, James Tabor, for this book. Joe Wilcox was my husband at the time this mountaineering disaster happened. I helped with the planning and preparation of this ill-fated expedition.
James
I'd read the other 2 books about this event,
I wasn't sure another book would be worth the time,
but in January, lots of time to read :)

This is actually the best of the 3,
important details the other 2 don't have,
and written without personal bias.

I didn't know Brad Washburn was such a mean, petty, asshole.
His reputation is totally shot now.

Like all writers of high altitude climbing the author misleads
readers about a few things.

From Newton: F=MV
force is equal to mass times velocity.

He talks about 10
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Kelley Billings
I had read Howard Snyder's "Hall of the Mountain King" and Joe Wilcox's "White Winds" years ago. Two totally different books about the same subject. I remember thinking at the time that I'd like to write one book incorporating these two books and fortunately, James Tabor has done just that with "Forever on the Mountain". He looks really hard at ALL the information at hand. He is perhaps more lenient with Washburn and Sheldon than I would be but probably is fairer than I am. I thought that he tre ...more
AJ Armstrong
Tabor claims to have access to new information about the event, but that isn't really evident in the book. All that is new is Tabor's somewhat reckless comfort in reporting the actions, motivations and thoughts of actors, despite the fact that they are wholly fabricated from his imagination. Particularly irksome is his willingness to propose his theory as truth, and then use pop psychology to 'prove' what happened and why it happens. He also seems particularly obsessed with rehabilitating Wilcox ...more
Leslie
In 1973 a co-worker recommended the book "The Hall of the Mountain King: The True Story of a Tragic Climb" by Howard Snyder, one of the climbers. It was a stunning story and led me to a lifetime of reading about mountain climbing disasters. Different than the usual mountain climbing books that preceded it, Snyder's book concentrated on the human dynamics of the climb rather than the technical aspects, laying blame for the disaster clearly on expedition leader Joe Wilcox. It was well written and ...more
Mike
The third book I've read about climbing Mt. McKinley, this one was much harder to put down than the others.

Twelve men, two different teams, were united by fate to climb North America's tallest mountain in 1967. The teams never merged into one cohesive unit. Accordingly, there was much discord among the members of these two teams.

Most of the men reached the summit of Mt. McKinley, but on two different days. When the second team descended, the worst storm in over 30 years hit the mountain with fu
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Alex Rubenstein
A very interesting story of untold proportions. Surprised how much I learned about mountaineering, and the perils of Mount McKinley (relative to Everest). Turns out that the location makes McKinley perhaps as difficult to summit (or more) than Everest. It is closer to the Arctic circle and therefore temperatures and the thin atmosphere makes a 20k elevation and McKinley roughly equal to 23k on Everest. Among other interesting facts, and of course, the immense tragedy that befell this expedition, ...more
Mary Banken
This book lends support to the notion that there is no such thing as non-fiction. The "Truth"that Tabor writes is more about the interpersonal disagreements and memories among the players in the event than it than about the somewhat speculative details of the ill-fated climb of Denali. The descriptions of these conflicting views are not particularly compelling either. That being said, the book provides some insights into the earlier days of mountain climbing and the ways in which scientific, pol ...more
Mark
I have absolutely no desire to climb a huge mountain like Denali or Everest.
Liz Nutting
Jul 12, 2010 Liz Nutting rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lovers of true-life adventure stories.
Here's the thing about books on mountain climbing that I find so compelling (besides the cold): the stories in and of themselves are so exciting, so scary, so poignant that they need very little, if any, embellishment. Of course, it's helpful when the author is a climber or at least very knowledgeable about climbing, for there are always things that need to be explained to the armchair peak-bagger. And a little explanation about why what went wrong went so wrong or why this climb more than any o ...more
Nikko Lee
Why I read this book:

Blind Descent was the first book by James M. Tabor that I had read. I was impressed with the clarity of his style that is a blend of education and narrative. Blind Descent satisfied the nerdy part of me that wanted the facts and the casual reader part of me that wanted action. When I saw that he'd written a book about a mountaineering tragedy, I knew I would read it. A year later, I found a used copy of Forever on the Mountain in Rivendell (my favorite used and new bookstore
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Todd Martin
Forever on the Mountain is an exhaustive (and exhausting) examination of a 1967 expedition to climb Alaska's 20,320-foot Mt. McKinley (now Denali) which resulted in the deaths of 7 of the 12 climbers on the team.

On the positive side, Tabor does a pretty good job at describing the adventure, giving non-climbers a feel for the rigors of mountain climbing. He also captures the tension of group dynamics which play an important role in activities (like climbing) that require a team effort.

On the down
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Mazola1
This book is an in-depth look at a climbing disaster on Mount McKinley, in which seven young men died. Tabor tries to determine what went wrong, and why. His book is fairly even-handed, but nonetheless, his sympathy for the group's leader is obvious, and probably justified.

In 1967, a young man from Washington, Joe Wilcox, put together a group of other young men to climb Mount McKinley. At the last minute, the National Park Service pressured him to combine his group with a smaller group of other
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Bridget
Two things could have bumped this rating up to a five:

1. If I had known about this disaster before I read the book, and had a pre-existing understanding of all the who-blamed-who and non-rescue drama.

2. If I had read a physical copy of the book instead of listening to the audiobook.

I mention the first because it was jarring to be thrown into the midst of a controversy where I wasn't previously aware that one existed. To a certain degree, the book seems to assume that I already know who Joe Wilco
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Don
I like reading stories about high adventure, and learning how people have overcome wilderness challenges. So I chose this story as it describes a historical event with this theme, and postulates what may have happened to the men who never came back from Mt McKinley.

The book provides a good background on the people involved and the difficulties of climbing Mt McKinley. The public usually considers places like Everest to be incredibly dangerous. The book helps to educate you that Mt McKinley is ju
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Sandy
After buying this book as a gift for one of my sons, I started to read a little bit and got hooked. I was intrigued by the references to the Mann Gulch fire and also to the LDS connection. I ended up reading the book myself and found it well written and interesting. I felt the author tried very hard to be objective and tried to understand the reasons behind the events that occurred. There was a lot of research done by the author in an attempt to sort out the events of the 1967 tragedy on Denali. ...more
Ned
In 1976, I had an office on the 6th floor of the Elmendorf AFB Hospital in Anchorage. Every day, when the sky was clear, I could look over my right shoulder and see Mt Denali(McKinley). It looked close enough to touch, although it was 170 miles away. Once, I took the Alaska Railroad right by the base of Denali. I never saw the mountain. I was too close. This mountain doesn't behave like other mountains.

This is a historical narrative of 12 men who climbed Mt McKinley in July of 1967 and the 7 of
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Abram
Dec 01, 2008 Abram rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: mountian climbers
This is an interesting read for all mountaineers. Revealing truth about the Denali disaster of 1967 when 7 climbers died during a extremely powerful storm that had trapped them up high for 8 days with no food, water and only sheltered by a snow cave. Tabor makes many assumptions (due to lack of information) about what the final days of the climbers were like and the hard decisions that they must have had to make. Beyond the assumptions though Tabor Sheds light on the failed rescue attempt that w ...more
Beth666ann
Following the tragic deaths of seven men in Joe Wilcox's 1967 expedition to climb Denali (Mt. McKinley), one of the other survivors in the party (Howard Ross, I think?) published a book, In the Hall of the Mountain King (I think), about all of the mistakes Wilcox made as expedition leader and the poor leadership he demonstrated. In 1981, Wilcox finally released his own book defending himself and citing the horrible, once-in-a-lifetime storm that struck the party as responsible for the deaths. Th ...more
Audra
Jul 21, 2008 Audra rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Throne Room of the Mtn Gods; White Winds; history of McKinley, mountaineering, etc.
Recommended to Audra by: no one :(
You don't get much more thorough than this book by Jim Tabor. It was a fascinating exploration into the history of this expedition, what is known and what can only be guessed at. Even more interesting is that he interviews many of the principals (as many as he could find), including Bradford Washburn and his wife, Joe Wilcox, and Howard Snyder.

I've seen reviews to the effect that this book is "anti-Washburn." Hmmm. But Washburn wasn't "anti-Wilcox" (or "pro-hypocrisy")? I think Tabor probably d
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Amy
It was refreshing to read an account of this story without terrible bias. I know that the information that comes from individuals who were there (Joe Wilcox and Howard Snyder) should be the most reliable, however, I feel that both of these individuals let their feelings towards the other overshadow some of the truth of what really happened or how it happened. I liked how this author was able to tell the story without being influenced by personal feelings from the events.
Rita Meade
Although I have no real interest in climbing mountains, I am fascinated by disasters that occur on them. I'm not sure what this says about me, but anyway...I listened to the audio version of this (I know I am supposed to like Scott Brick, but his presentation always puts me off for some reason - he almost sounds sarcastic, even when reading non-fiction). The book itself is a dense, detailed, and thorough account of the 1967 tragedy on Alaska’s Mount McKinley - 7 out of 12 people who made the cli ...more
Lori
I didn't read all of it, but will provide a brief review based on what I read and the decision to not go forward.

By no means is it poorly written or boring material, but I cannot find myself engrossed enough to keep reading. The biggest problem to me is that the reader knows there is a controversial and mysterious disaster and yet the reader is not told what the disaster was. The reader is told that some die and some survive, but this technique does nothing but irritate me because there's no my
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Lisa
Really fascinating book. I too am a sucker for mountain climbing books although I would never do anything like this. This is about a tragedy in the 1960s on Mt. McKinley. Very sad to think about the young talented, accomplished, fine men that died.

It is nuts to me this extreme sport thing but it's been going on for a long time.
Samantha Kirk
Sebastian Junger-type look into natural and social forces at work in the 1967 Denali disaster. He creates a compelling, well-researched narrative that exposes motives behind critics of the teams, as well as a very nuanced look at the interpersonal dynamics. Repetitive in spots, but a really good read.
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