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

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  1,155 Ratings  ·  103 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

Hardcover, 432 pages
Published July 17th 2007 by W. W. Norton Company (first published June 20th 2007)
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Mar 01, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Nov 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 27, 2008 rated it liked it
"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-
Jul 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Cheryl C
May 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: climbing
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
Dec 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I'd never read a mountaineering book before I read The Ledge, but this one sounded especially intriguing. It was! Since the author started researching the book, it was essentially a mystery from 1967 to the time of publication, 2007. When I read The Ledge, I vowed never to go mountain climbing. After this book, I even avoid small hills in people's yards.

The research the author did for this book is incredible. He interviewed as many climbers who were still alive as he could (seven remained on Mt.
Nov 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
AJ Armstrong
Apr 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Anita Pomerantz
Jul 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is the true tale of a mountaineering expedition on Mt. McKinley in 1967. 7 out of 12 men died on the mountain, but the exact reasons why and how were somewhat of a mystery. Tabor, a journalist, sets out to uncover exactly what happened and why.

I found this a very engaging read, but it probably isn't for everyone. It isn't quite as gripping as Into Thin Air, but has more of a tone of investigative journalism (think 60 Minutes). I just find it riveting to read about the challenges on th
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
Kelley Billings
Jul 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 01, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I have absolutely no desire to climb a huge mountain like Denali or Everest.
Apr 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Jul 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm not sure why I am attracted to strength-enduring, tragic outcome for some stories, but I apparently am. I have read several books about trips up Mt. Everest, but never Mt McKinley. This book was very interesting to read. Though other books have been written about this 1967 tragedy, (including by some survivors), this author really goes in depth to find out what really happened. There are a few parts that are a little long in detail (like preparing for the trip, and the afterword with who to ...more
Lorna Rose-hahn
Oct 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Excellent. I'm not a climber, and don't know the challenges mountain climbers face. The author helped me understand. I also clearly understood the group dynamics and how they were a breeding ground for trouble.
Jul 23, 2017 rated it liked it
I wanted the story of what happened, and the author REALLY wanted to tell build a case about who was to blame. So in the end this want the book I'd hoped to read.
Aug 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Nikko Lee
Sep 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Liz Nutting
Jun 29, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Alison Hardtmann
Dec 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Books about mountain climbing and polar exploration are endlessly fascinating, despite the uniformly bad writing. The type of person who would willingly give huge amounts of time and money to a hobby that involves relentless pain, drudgery and cold, not to mention an enormous risk of death, or of at least a few lost toes, is not the type of person who would enjoy crafting perfect sentences alone in a quiet room. This is why Into Thin Air was a bestseller; Jon Krakauer was a writer who was second ...more
Aug 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Todd Martin
Jul 19, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: outdoors
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
Jul 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Dec 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
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
Nov 13, 2008 rated it liked it
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
May 12, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook, nonfiction
The story of 12 men attempting to summit Denali and only five surviving is, by its nature, an intriguing story. The author gets one of his three stars for picking a compelling topic. He gets the other two stars for having good vocabulary, narrating a story well, and clearly doing his research. I'd probably give 2.5 stars if GR allowed.

Here's why he doesn't get five stars:
1) excessive hypothetical conversations and reenactments of the missing seven men, when no journals have ever been recovered
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