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

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  622 ratings  ·  76 reviews

Winner of the 2007 Banff Mountain Festival Book Awards Grand Prize (The Phyllis & Don Munday Award): "A riveting account of a long-ago mountaineering disaster."—Time

In 1967, seven young men, members of a twelve-man expedition led by twenty-four-year-old Joe Wilcox, were stranded on Alaska's Mount McKinley in a vicious arctic storm. All seven perished on what remains th...more
Kindle Edition, 370 pages
Published (first published June 20th 2007)
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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...more
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
"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-...more
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
Oct 14, 2008 Kaelie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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...more
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
Cheryl C
May 13, 2008 Cheryl C rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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.
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  ·  review of another edition
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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
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...more
Dec 01, 2008 Abram rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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...more
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
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...more
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.
Eric Mccutcheon
This was a very compelling story about a terrible mountaineering disaster but I was definitely not sucked into it like I was hoping. The author spends innumerable pages going into blame and motivation and speculation. The same ideas kept repeating over and again. It got old really fast. Sometimes a book's story can rise above those problems-- this was not the book. This was like a boring version of Into Thin Air.
Interesting story of the 1967 Wilcox Expedition of Denali, where seven people died near the summit. I enjoyed reading about the expedition, but I found Tabor's analysis to be a little too defensive of expedition leader Joe Wilcox. While the expedition was certainly endangered by the extremely bad weather, the national park service's slow reaction to the tragedy and a feud with legendary mountaineer Brad Washburn, Tabor underestimates the problems created by Wilcox's lack of leadership. The two t...more
Leeann Horner
I had anticipated a gripping account of the events on McKinley, similar to the many books written about the 1996 and 2006 tragic incidents on Everest. Instead, I found myself struggling to get through yet one more "well maybe this is what happened" guess by the author. The lack of actual details and mountaineering experience combined with poor writing made this one of the most boring books I have ever read.
What a great story; however I found the author very interruptive and had it out for Everest climbers. Too much justification for his own telling of the story, but overall enjoyed.
I did not expect to love this book because I don't have much interest or respect for "extreme" athletes who do crazy things and expect the world to bail them out when they get into trouble. However, I really got involved with this book. I believe it is because of the writing style. I would read anything James Tabor writes because he is so real, so well-researched, so detailed and at the same time interesting and easy to read. He made that mountain so real for me and made me care about what happe...more
Tabor writes a book that is informative and compelling. While "Forever on the Mountain" will certainly be compared to Krakauer's "Into thin air" -- and lacks the immediacy of being involved personally in the disaster -- it does not suffer from such a comparison. Tabor's book covers an amazing amount of ground, talking to most of the parties involved, studying what has been published about the 1967 tragedy on Denali, and using his own varied experiences as a police officer and an outdoorsman. Tab...more
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