Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2's Deadliest Day

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9780393079883: Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2's Deadliest Day

"Buried in the Sky is a compelling account of the men who have literally shouldered the rest of the world’s mountaineers up K2." ―Norman Ollestad, best-selling author of Crazy for the Storm

When Edmund Hillary first conquered Mt. Everest, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay was at his side. Indeed, for as long as Westerners have been climbing the Himalaya, Sherpas have been the unsung heroes in the background. In August 2008, when eleven climbers lost their lives on K2, the world’s most dangerous peak, two Sherpas survived. They had emerged from poverty and political turmoil to become two of the most skillful mountaineers on earth. Based on unprecedented access and interviews, Buried in the Sky reveals their astonishing story for the first time.

Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan explore the intersecting lives of Chhiring Dorje Sherpa and Pasang Lama, following them from their villages high in the Himalaya to the slums of Kathmandu, across the glaciers of Pakistan to K2 Base Camp. When disaster strikes in the Death Zone, Chhiring finds Pasang stranded on an ice wall, without an axe, waiting to die. The rescue that follows has become the stuff of mountaineering legend.

At once a gripping, white-knuckled adventure and a rich exploration of Sherpa customs and culture, Buried in the Sky re-creates one of the most dramatic catastrophes in alpine history from a fascinating new perspective. 16 pages of color illustrations; 8 maps

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From the Author:

Many climbing accounts describe a death-defying struggle up fixedlines. But how did those ropes get there? Who performed the rescues? When your life hangs from a knot, it helps to know who tied it.

But some stories get buried. Western journalists seldom speak Ajak Bhote, Balti, Burushaski, Shar-Khumbu tamgney, Rolwaling Sherpi tamgney, or Wakhi. Reporters can't usually track down indigenous climbers by dialing telephone numbers or sending e-mails, and writers on a deadline rarely have time to trek to remote villages. As a result, testimony from high-altitude workers isn't broadcast far. Survivors of the Death Zone have imperfect recall, and the media maelstrom makes recovery--and accuracy--elusive as families, fans, friends, and publicists all assert claims on a story. Trauma and oxygen deprivation compound the confusion. As in war, eyewitnesses who were standing next to each other sometimes report different versions
of the events.

Nonetheless, Amanda and I have tried to get at the truth and to be straightforward about our reporting. We researched for two years. We took seven trips to Nepal, trekking to regions rarely visited by Westerners and off-limits to journalists. We took three trips to Pakistan and obtained unprecedented access to military and government officials, thanks largely to Nazir Sabir, president of the Alpine Club of Pakistan. In total, we interviewed more than two hundred people and spent countless hours at kitchen tables in France, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States. We relied on more than a thousand photographs and videos. This book re-creates a true story. Please see the background notes for further information on methods and sources.

The death of Amanda's friend Karim Meherban was a catalyst for this book. Nursing a newborn, Amanda couldn't do all the research herself, so I was brought in as coauthor. Amanda and I are cousins,and we've been writing together since I was twelve. Before Buried in the Sky, I had a comfortable job as a daily newspaper reporter. I had never strapped on crampons. But when I learned about this story, I had no choice but to quit my job, grab a notebook, and head to the Himalaya. The characters were too inspiring, the goal too important, and the journey too compelling to resist.

Peter Zuckerman
Portland, Oregon

From the Inside Flap:

A cloudless sky greeted the mountaineers when they left for the summit of K2, earth's most dangerous peak. By next morning, eleven men were dead. 

The 2008 K2 disaster became an instant media sensation, riveting audiences around the world. But as survivors straggled into Base Camp with their tales of endurance, critical pieces of the story were missing. Men rumored to have three lungs -- the Himalayan-born mountaineers known as Sherpas -- had led the climb and the rescue efforts, but their accounts were hard to come by.

Based on unprecedented access to these high-altitude workers and interviews in their rare and dying languages, Buried in the Sky provides a definitive account of K2's deadliest day -- and reveals the Sherpas' story for the first time. More than mere porters, Sherpas were the anonymous heroes of mountaineering decades before Edmund Hillary conquered Everest with Tenzing Norgay at his side. Holding an almost mythical status to many Westerners, theirs is a tale that incorporates thousands of years of history, legend, religion, human physiology and extreme weather. 

A white-knuckle adventure, Buried in the Sky first transports readers to the Sherpas' remote villages, where climbing not only offers an escape from poverty and war but also represents a sin against the gods. The story then tracks the Sherpas as they leave their homes behind, work their way into becoming some of best mountaineers in the world, and lead their clients up into the clouds. As the chaos in the Death Zone unfolds, Buried in the Sky relives one of the most dramatic catastrophes in alpine history. Life and death at the limit of human endurance. Triumph and tragedy on a peak so lethal most mountaineers consider it suicide ...

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