LEIGH FORBES: Books of all Sorts

Denali’s Howl: The Deadliest Climbing Disaster on America’s Wildest Peak


by Andy Hall.

A well-researched and well-written account of the 1967 disaster on Alaska’s Denali, the highest mountain in North America, drawn from contemporary records and reports from, as well as modern-day interviews with those involved.

In the summer of 1967 Joe Wilcox led a team of twelve men, mostly in their early twenties and with varying levels of fitness and experience, on a month-long shoe-string expedition to the summit of Denali. Positioned as it is on the western reaches of Alaska, the mountain can experience extreme weather-conditions (with wind-speeds exceeding 100mph), with its high latitude compounding the already high-altitude effects of hypoxia. During the final stages of the expedition – between the first and second team reaching the summit the “storm of the century” hit the mountain, trapping the expedition (by then split into three groups) for a week in the most challenging conditions imaginable. When the weather cleared, only five of the twelve were still alive. Of the seven who died, four were never found. 

Andy Hall was the then five-year-old son of the Denali Park’s superintendent ranger, and so witnessed some of the events first hand. His writing style is effortless to read, and he conveys the complicated details of the route (plus the personalities of the twelve principle characters) with great clarity.

I’ve read Joe Simpson, and can certainly recommend Denali’s Howl for any one who enjoyed Touching the Void or The Beckoning Silence.


Comments are closed.