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"Forever On The Mountain"

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Just finished reading James Tabor's 2007 book "Forever On The Mountain" re: the 1967 Denali expedition that resulted in 7 unfortunate deaths (ISBN 978-0-393-06174-1). Certainly is a thought provoking account and analysis in terms of the what the moutain is capable of dishing out. It also takes a lot of luster off the reputations of the fellows like Don Sheldon and Brad Washburn. Certainly seems like Joe Wilcox was scapegoated by many folks.

 

I'd give it a 4 out of 5 on the grip-o-meter scale.

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I just finished it over the holiday vacation, and agree, except I found it rambled a little bit, with events not taking place in the timeline, like "oh, let me just say that later we find out..."

 

Otherwise, I recommend it highly for an interestingly non-biased account - since he doesn't really seem to actually like any of them (but he makes Howard out to be more friendly than Joe).

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J It also takes a lot of luster off the reputations of the fellows like Don Sheldon and Brad Washburn. Certainly seems like Joe Wilcox was scapegoated by many folks.

 

In what ways? I have read both White Winds and Hall of the Mtn King. So I would be interested in learning what brings this about.

 

 

 

BTW I have two friends buried on Denali.

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ScaredSilly, I have not read White Winds or Mtn. King nor do I have two friends buried on Denali. I have however read this particular book and have expressed my opinion above. You may or may not come to the same conclusions should you read it yourself. That said, and based on what appears to be a well researched and balanced account of this catastrophe, it would appear to me that:

 

Washburn was: a) a hypocrite having climbed the mountain previous to Wilcox via the W. Butt for money (ref. the RKO film) with his wife who had no experience; and, b) had a massive ego and a clear vindictive streak which he repeatedly and forcefully directed at Wilcox.

 

Sheldon appeared to be more motivated with servicing paying customers climbing the W. Butt at the time rather than meaningfully helping the Babcock rescue effort. Moreover, his actions, when he chose to engage were less than helpful.

 

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My conclusions were similar after reading it. Sheldon appeared to act in an irresponsible and incomprehensible way, given the gravity of the situation (randomly tossing supplies obviously far away from where he was directed, in a white bag on a glacier). Washburn did agree in his interview with the author that perhaps he was a bit out of sorts at the time, but couldn't recall any details.

 

It was excellently researched, and just pointing out facts, so a very interesting read.

 

 

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Sheldon appeared to act in an irresponsible and incomprehensible way, given the gravity of the situation (randomly tossing supplies obviously far away from where he was directed, in a white bag on a glacier).

After reading this book, it would appear that Don Sheldon did act poorly. But read "Wager with the wind", Don Sheldon's biography, and a whole slew of other writings about Don Sheldon. The assertions in Tabors book do not square with the courageous acts Don Sheldon did numerous times to save others. I believe Tabor is wrong.

 

It was excellently researched

No it's not. I found numerous errors in research.

 

I have also read both Joe Wilcox's and Howard Snyder's books, and am finally beginning to disagree with some of the assessments of Joe Wilcox, which were probably ingrained into me by the writings of Chris Jones, Howard Snyder, and Brad Washburn. Nevertheless, it was a poorly ran expedition. Wayne Merry's frustrations with the NPS and the rescue were the most interesting part of this latest book

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I heard an old story about Sheldon forgetting to pick up some hunters. A week after they were supposed to be picked up they were spotted briefly in Talkeetna looking haggard and pissed off. The next day Sheldon's plane was found in his hanger, full of bullet holes.

 

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Just a note: the route Washburn climbed with his wife was not the West Buttress, it was Karsten's Ridge to Denali Pass in 1947. He did the FA of the West Buttress in 1951 and she was not on that trip.

 

Also, prior to the Denali expedition, she had been on the FAs of Mount Bertha in 1940 and Mount Hayes in 1941, so she wasn't totally inexperienced.

 

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I heard an old story about Sheldon forgetting to pick up some hunters. A week after they were supposed to be picked up they were spotted briefly in Talkeetna looking haggard and pissed off. The next day Sheldon's plane was found in his hanger, full of bullet holes.

 

Probably just a Urban (rural) legend, just like:

 

Felix Kuen, German climbing leader of the 1972 International Expedition to the SW Face of Everest, on hearing that Germany had defeated England in the World Cup

 

 

We have beaten you at your national game

 

Don Whillians, in response

 

 

Aye, but we have beaten you at yours twice

 

As Jim Perrin points out (The Villian, 2005), there was no World Cup in 1972. And Pershing and Ike had to bail out the Brits anyway

 

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