During the first bit of Forever on the Mountain, I was under the impression that Tabor was fabricating to a certain degree, using artistic license, small words and actions between the characters that were trapped high on the mountain. I made reference to quoted conversations that Tabor speculated, but on page 372 in the Author’s Note (last paragraph), Tabor briefly explains that any and all quoted conversations and statements within the book were based on hard evidence, and all speculated conversation was not quoted. I began to notice this by the last part of the book, but I was finally forced to definitively withdraw my gentle criticisms of before about fabricating conversations after reading that Author’s Note.
Thus I rescind said criticisms. Now I can rave a little about how much I LIKE the way Tabor treated quoted and unquoted conversations. I think that piece of the note should have been included at the beginning of the book though, to avoid my mistake. But now that I know for sure how Tabor treated his evidence, I have the utmost confidence in what this book presents. It would appear that Tabor did as much research as was possible for this book, that he had just enough experience to write it with understanding and compassion, and that his personal distance from the parties involved in the action allowed him as close to objectivity as is possible with humans.
I found Tabor’s retelling of the 1967 McKinley tragedy compelling, though it did read a little bit like an investigator’s report, as I believe it ought considering Tabor’s motives and objectives. I found nothing wanting by the last page in my knowledge of the disaster – Tabor included his own speculations of what happened to the seven men gently, without strong assertion, and he also included the opinions of the survivors. I never felt as though I were getting one side of the story only, or any side for that matter – this felt more like a sphere: no sides, all straight evidence and direct inference labeled as such. I kept wondering what Joe’s and Howard’s books might be like to read, but I don’t feel any real compulsion to read them after reading Tabor’s account. On the other hand, I still want to read Boukreev’s account of the 1996 Everest disaster because, despite his best journalistic intentions, I still think Krakauer was too close to the action to report it in a truly objective manner.
Moral: Tabor did an excellent job, in my opinion, of collecting evidence and presenting it in a professional, compelling, and unbiased manner. I think this was an important book to have on the reading list because it highlights the difference between an adventure narrative and a study of events, which I don’t feel is really an adventure narrative. I wasn’t drawn into the action in Tabor’s book as I have been in the previous reads. Instead I was fascinated by the theories and the facts. An interesting distinction… I didn’t feel like an armchair adventurer with this book. I felt like an armchair investigator.