Forever on the Mountain: The Truth
This work is an effort to explain the who, what and why of one of the greatest tragedies in North American mountaineering history. In 1967, 24-year old Joe Wilcox organized a 9-man team to climb Denali, but ended up being the leader of a 12-man team. A team of 3 led by one Howard Snyder was forced by park regulations to either team with Wilcox or not climb. It was evident from the beginning that two teams were not a match. The climb was made via the classic Muldrow Glacier – Karstens Ridge route. Only 3 of the 12 members summited. Most of Wilcox’s team was caught in a vicious storm and 7 of them perished. Snyder wrote his version of events in Hall of the Mountain King
a few years after the event. He pointed a culpable finger at Wilcox. A few years after Snyder’s book, Wilcox wrote, in White Winds
, his own detailed account of events partly in rebuttal to Snyder’s account.
Tabor’s volume is the result of a lengthy investigation into what happened in July 1976, drawing on previously untapped sources: personal interviews with the survivors and those involved in the aftermath, unpublished diaries and letters and government documents. Some of the “mysterious and controversial” questions that Tabor attempts to answer include why 10 days passed with no all-out rescue effort while more than half the expedition was trapped and dying below the summit during one of the fiercest storms in Denali history; and why there was never a formal official investigation into the catastrophe. Tabor concludes that assigning blame for the tragedy to Wilcox is unjustified and that the magnitude of the storm that trapped the members who perished accounts for much more than supposed deficiencies in Wilcox’s leadership.
: 400 pages with B&W photos and route diagram
: James M. Tabor
: W.W. Norton & Company
Year of Publication