Of all the texts we've read this semester, I'm having the hardest time with Forever On The Mountain, in part because of the doom looming large on the horizon, and in part because I just can't see it as an adventure. There is no way that we will agree on a succinct - or even a diffuse - definition for "adventure" before the semester is out, which is something we seem to have accepted as a group, but Tabor's text represents, to me, what an adventure is not. The front cover calls this whole shenanigan of a tragedy a "disaster," and I find that that is the essence of the narrative. What began as an adventure to Joe Wilcox and his team has been related to the audience not as an adventure narrative, but a case study in Murphy's Law. It is a story with elements of other adventure narratives we have read: passion and ambition, camaraderie and conflict, bravery and tragedy. It also raises many of the same questions we have asked ourselves throughout the class: What is leadership? How and why do we assign blame? What is success? But Tabor, as meticulously researched and factual as it might be, does not deliver an adventure to the reader - he delivers a warning wrapped in catastrophe. It is a warning to potential climbers, to bureaucrats and those in leadership roles. It is a grim take on mountaineering, crafted so intimately that the reader cannot help but be affected by the currents of Shakespearean dramatic irony charging the text, the certainty of a tragic ending.
In my own imagining of what an adventure is, the planned end result is not always the reward that was imagined, and the unplanned result is often a rewarding, or at least learning, experience. Conventional ideas of success do not an adventure make, to my mind (except when they do). That being said, there is a difference between mistakes and disappointing adventures and discordant climbing teams that lose over half of their number. Sometimes, when coming off some experience gone wrong, I answer the friendly yet perfunctory "How was it?" with a wry "Well, it was an adventure" and decide that whatever kerfuffle occurred was actually hilarious. But that isn't what happens in Tabor's text. There is no saving this experience, no turning the death of seven men into anything but the death of seven men. Maybe I need to expand my understanding of adventures and allow them to be a little darker, but I still hold that Tabor is not presenting his audience with a tragic adventure, but rather a tragedy that grew from seeds of adventure.