A Critical Look At Forever on the Mountain –

The Truth Behind One of Mountaineering’s Most Controversial and Mysterious Disasters– a Book by James M. Tabor

Tabor's Misleading Speculation: An Air Force C130 or other plane would have made a difference

 “Hayes and Gary Hansen feel that relying on the civilian climbers already on the mountain is a better option than RCC airdrops, despite the fact that it will take the MCA group 5 days minimum to reach Camp V and a C 130 could be orbiting the peak in FIVE hours….”  (Tabor 2007)

 Wilcox examined this issue after the fact and concluded,

“…contrary to my assessment and hopes at the time, the wind was so severe high on the peak that even in clear weather  a high altitude observation flight probably could not have seen through the ground blizzard.” (Wilcox 1980)

Wayne Merry has always been bothered by the short periods of time he could see clearing from his outpost at Wonder Lake. 
In a review soon to
be published by American Alpine Journal, Jeb Williamson quotes Merry as saying,

“Wayne Merry, the lone ranger on hand at the time with climbing experience, put it another way:  “… an over flight by a capable aircraft during one of the brief windows of clear weather might just possibly have identified the situation and dropped supplies. Very unlikely, but possible.  But we didn't know the situation.  So if there was a failing, it is that we didn't try to find out.”  (Williamson 2008)

Merry, to this day, feels we had a “moral obligation” to try and utilize the Air Force resources he saw operating during the Winter Ascent Rescue… 
Could an air force C130 have swooped in and dropped supplies or been able to provide better information about the team’s circumstance?   

The Air Force was not utilized by the ARG for the Winter Ascent Rescue until after the Class 4 storm had abated(the storm lasted 5.5 days from March 1-March 6).  Their party was trapped at Denali Pass – about 1000 feet below Clark’s party who was trapped closer to the summit than to high camp. 
Merry was hoping for air force involvement as early as July 21st…Day 3 of an 8.5 day Class 6 storm for the Wilcox Expedition.  Was that unreasonable to ask?  No.  In uncharted territory like this no question is unreasonable. 

It is unfortunate that Merry wasn’t part of the rescue strategy sessions…without Gary Hansen, Vin Hoeman, Hall and Hayes…We don’t know what discussions happened and what would have ruled that option out.  The ARG was the agency that initiated the Winter Ascent Rescue and requested the Air Force involvement just a few months earlier. 

Daryl Miller believes the observations Merry made were not the opportunities he hoped they could have been:

My experience tells me that these are what we refer to as "sucker holes" as they open and close with no predictability in just how long these windows will last.  Given what Wilcox described in his report as well as what he was requesting, this was just not realistic.  The party of seven left behind was doomed because of some bad decisions, compounded by severe weather and extreme altitude.  They had no idea at the time how fragile they were as you are defenseless in the high winds unless you are underground.  Somehow the book wants you to believe these six climbers up on the football field were just waiting around for an air drop so they could continue on.  Our expedition was trapped in 1981 for 9 days from July 4th until July 13th at 17,000 feet on the Harper glacier.  We dug down through our tent floors as the winds were destroying our tents.  We lasted because we were literally underground and had a good supply of fuel and food.  This survival was largely due to our expedition leader, Lucy Smith who knew from prior trips about how to deal with storms and the wrath of Denali.  I learned a lot from her and those 30 + days on that expedition.  ………If I requested today for the rescue coordination center to air drop a rescue resupply with the weather they had they would say no!  ……If you are pointing fingers at someone for not flying or refusing to fly these air drops on Denali, you had better have paid some dues on that mountain during all types of weather up high to have rational judgment in just what you can ask rescuers to do. (Miller 2008)

I have to confirm this, but I know I have read that a rescue at this altitude was unprecedented.


The REAL Truth:
"The 7 men were hit by an unprecedented storm that prevented anyone from doing any more than was done..."
The "Obvious Choice" of NPS rescue coordinator was not the most "practical choice"...
The Alaska Rescue Group (Now called The Alaska Mountain Rescue Group) was the most experienced resource available..
The Winter Ascent Rescue was not mounted in "a matter of hours" and was undertaken after their storm had abated...
An Air Force C130 or other high altitude observation plane would not have made a difference.
July 20, 1967, the day that Wilcox radioed for help.
The role of Don Sheldon & Bradford Washburn and the authors assertions about their errors and misjudgements.
Tabor's Conclusion is Wrong
Other Mistakes
An Afterword
Acknowlegements and Thanks
Attachment #1, Attachment #2, Attachment #3
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