Winner of the National Outdoor Book Award
Grand Prize Winner, Banff Mountain Book Festival
"Forever on the Mountain grips even non-climbers with its harrowing scenes of thorny relationships tested by extraordinary circumstances." —Washington Post
In 1967, seven young men, members of a twelve-man expedition led by twenty-four-year-old Joe Wilcox, were stranded at 20,000 feet on Alaska’s Mount McKinley in a vicious Arctic storm. Ten days passed while the storm raged, yet no rescue was mounted. All seven perished in 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 make this disaster unlike any other.
Tabor's exhaustive look at the doomed 1967 expedition to scale Alaska's Mt. McKinley is an often gripping, detailed account of the infamous climb that remains controversial. Only five of the 12-man team survived the ascent to the 20,320-foot summit, making it one of the deadliest mountaineering disasters in North America. The journey was fraught with tension from the beginning: the National Park Service (NPS) required a group of nine men, led by Joe Wilcox, to merge with a three-member party of Coloradoans, led by Howard Snyder. Wilcox and Snyder clashed almost immediately. Both men survived and went on to retell the trip in books: Snyder in his 1973 version that mostly blamed Wilcox's leadership; Wilcox's account in 1981 cited an overpowering storm as the culprit in the deaths. Tabor (who hosted PBS's Great Outdoors) shows that the NPS was very slow to react and might have saved the climbers with quicker response. His writing about the brutal difficulties of climbing Mt. McKinley in subfreezing temperatures with hurricane-like wind in blizzard conditions is breathtaking, although he lapses into minutiae and repeats details, particularly regarding the accident's investigation. His profiles of the expedition's survivors 40 years later make for a strong conclusion to the book.