Synopses & Reviews
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.
About the Author
Comment from co-author Peter Zuckerman
What initially made me want to write this book was the story itself. Buried in the Sky is a true adventure about one of the most dramatic disasters in alpine history, the 2008 tragedy on K2 that left eleven people dead. In this book, you will see photos of people just before they died. You will find out what people do when they have been broken by oxygen deprivation and exhaustion and must make life-or-death decisions. You will see what people are like at their most elemental level.
I also found the characters compelling. These are not the kind of people you bump into every day. It takes a unique personality to risk everything to climb the world's most dangerous mountain. These men and women, trapped inside the same tents, clash when their lives depend upon them getting along. You think you know who they are, and then—right when the stakes are highest—they’re revealed to be something else. These are people who capture you, who make you examine yourself, who make you ask what you would do under similar circumstances. Are you someone who would save yourself? Or would you try to save another? What if you barely knew that person?
But the story and the characters aren’t what finally got me to chase this book down with my cousin Amanda. There are plenty of narratives about death-defying struggles up fixed ropes to a summit. What really appealed to me was that Buried in the Sky illustrates a much more universal problem—one we all face, nearly every day, nearly everywhere.
Among mountaineers, Sherpas hold a nearly-mythical status. They have a seemingly superhuman ability to do some of the most dangerous and difficult climbing. They scout routes, break trail, fix ropes, carry gear, establish camps, pitch tents, escort climbers to the summit, snap summit photos, rescue climbers when they slip. This is their job: To safely get their often-more-celebrated clients up and down a mountain.
But their stories get buried, and mountaineering shows that this kind of omission can lead to a disaster. When your life hangs from a knot, you need to know who tied it. When you're relying on a team to lead you up a mountain, you need to know whether the members of this team speak the same language and can communicate; whether they’re business or ethnic rivals; whether they can and will work together well. These were the major issues on K2 in 2008.
History is usually told through the eyes of the kings and the Columbus’s, not through the eyes of the help. But we all hang from knots that other people have tied. We all have mountains to summit. We are all surrounded by people we never notice.
This book shows why unseen people matter. When you tell an incomplete story that omits them, what you fail to learn can have disastrous consequences. Worse yet, you might not even find out what these consequences are, and others may repeat your errors. The Sherpas of every story—the unseen people all around us—must be seen for who they are. Our lives depend on them.