Wednesday, October 27, 2010

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

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

I just read Tabor's book, "Forever On The Mountain", and then read Wilcox's 1981 book, "White Winds", and 1973 Snyder's book, "In The Hall Of The Mountain King". Wilcox and Snyder are two of the five survivors of the twelve-man expedition up the Muldrow Glacier route on Denali in 1967. Both of their books were written years after the event and express different biases. Snyder's book suffers from a clear bias against Wilcox, and Wilcox's book suffers from a different sort of bias, essentially pinning the entire tragedy on the storm that caught the seven who died, and ignoring the culpability of the National Park Service and the intra-group tensions created when the NPS forced two mismatched teams (Wilcox's nine-man team and Snyder's three-man team) to climb together. No one from the second group of men summiting the mountain survived and they left behind no journals or other writings, so anyone writing about what happened has to try to base his or her conclusions on the objective data that did survive. For that, Tabor's book does an excellent job of marshaling and analyzing the existing evidence, consulting experts, and interviewing surviving participants in this drama. His writing is crisp and clear, and tells a gripping story. His descriptions of what happens in high-altitude alpine expeditions, from pee bottles to spending the night with your backs to the wall of your tent trying to keep it from collapsing in 100-mph winds, are spot on for anyone who has been there. Tabor takes the available evidence and then, like a courtroom attorney, draws reasonable inferences to try to reconstruct what likely happened to the seven who died high on the mountain. At the end, he concludes that there was a lot of blame to pass around, with some falling on both Wilcox and Snyder, and perhaps the most falling on the NPS and the Denali Park Superintendent at the time, but concludes, as do both Wilcox and Snyder, that there was likely nothing that could have been done after the first few days once the storm struck high on the mountain were squandered by the NPS's bureaucratic dithering on what to do. NPS ranger Wayne Merry tries his best, but is thwarted by persons in the chain of command above him who had been burned by an all-out winter expedition rescue just a few months earlier and who were simply out of their element at a time when climbing expeditions of the sort mounted by Wilcox/Snyder were nascent on Denali. Incidentally, I subsequently read Gerianne Thorsness' critical look at Tabor's book, but it suffers from great subjectivity (she is the daughter of the Denali Superintendent at the time), a misreading of Tabor's conclusions, and selected examination of portions of Tabor's book taken out of context. It would have been very interesting to read an objective, critical review of Tabor's book based on evidence that he did not have or consider, or chose to ignore, but G. Thorsness' paper isn't it. Overall, Tabor's book is a compelling attempt to answer the questions, that remain even after Tabor's book, about just what happened to cause this tragedy.

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

  • ISBN13: 9780393331967
  • Condition: New
  • Notes: BRAND NEW FROM PUBLISHER! BUY WITH CONFIDENCE, Over one million books sold! 98% Positive feedback. Compare our books, prices and service to the competition. 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed

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

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 the most tragic expedition in American climbing history. Revisiting the event in the tradition of Norman Maclean's Young Men and Fire, James M. Tabor uncovers elements of controversy, finger-pointing, and cover-up that combine to make this disaster unlike any other.

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