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

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  • Posted June 18, 2012

    One of the most comprehensive guides to the literature of climbi

    One of the most comprehensive guides to the literature of climbing and exploration in the Himalaya, and surrounding areas, is the third edition of Yakushi's "Catalogue of the Himalayan Literature" (1994) with over 9,000 books listed. In this rich source it is quite surprising to find only very few books that deal with the perspective of the native or local climbers, the HAPs or, as they were being referred to in the colonialist days, the "coolies". The local climbers though, the Sherpa, the Balti and many more, do have an interesting story to tell. It is important they find a voice to speak for them and to tell their tale.

    Only a couple of these stories have found their way to the general public. Tenzing's autobiographies are important examples and probably the ones that are best known. "Servant of Sahibs" is the autobiography of Ghulam Rassul Galwan who, in the 1890's worked on a number of expeditions. An absolute rarity but a jewel of a book is "Mémoires d'un Sherpa" which tells the story of the life of Ang Tharkay. He was one of the most famous and important Sherpas and with Eric Shipton he was on eight of his expeditions. On the 1950 expedition to Annapurna he was sirdar, or "head of the porters" who are accompanying and supporting an expedition.

    To this small stack of books a new and important addition has seen the light of day. "Buried in the Sky" deals with the tragic events of the early days of August 2008 when 11 people lost their lives on the flanks of K2; that most beautiful, but equally dangerous and at times lethal, second highest summit on Earth. The book tells the tale from the perspective of the Sherpas who courageously risked everything to support the teams that hired them. They risked life and limb, displaying loyal acts of bravery and some of them indeed had to pay for this with their life. The way the story is presented in this book is objective, which is good. It's of no real use to be pointing with fingers to find the good and the bad guys. This tragedy - like so many others - is a thing of the past and those who could - and maybe should've done better - will have to worry and wail about this for years to come.

    It is a great credit to the authors that they give these courageous men a voice in a thoroughly researched and well written and gripping account. To try and measure yourself against a most worthy opponent as K2 is no child's play. To rise beyond the average in life and risk all to save a fellow climber is a thing that is only reserved for true heroes. This book is about a number of these brave characters. In this story full of tragedy and drama, the highest and lowest of emotions, the humanity of the people and the horror of death vie for first place. All the ingredients in this story make this book a highly entertaining read. The people involved truly come alive on the pages and for me it was impossible to put this book down so I read it in one go, cover to cover.

    As a reader, who exclusively prefers non-fiction mountaineering books, I've thoroughly enjoyed this read, even when it's dealing with serious matters and emotions, for it is a well balanced and excellent account. Any mountaineering library or bibliography that takes itself serious should have and list this book. It corrresponds with what a devoted and knowledgeable reader can expect to find only in the best of books. That's why I have no other choice and give this book my highest praise and the best recommendation imaginable.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 17, 2012

    An excellent read, even for those not particularly interested in mountain climbing

    This.is one of the best books that I have read in a long time. I'm not a mountain climbing nut, but the story presented here, through the eyes of the people who lived it (or their loved ones) is absolutely gripping.

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  • Posted July 2, 2012

    This is a remarkable adventure story. Recounting the backgroun

    This is a remarkable adventure story. Recounting the background and detail of a dreadful mountaineering catastrophe, this book really is about decision-making and morality. It addresses how individuals on the knife-edge of disaster, when exhaustion and oxygen deprivation and fear have reduced them to bundles of elemental urges, behave. And it is about how cultural and moral imperatives frame those behaviors.
    For each trip of a well-funded team up K2, “sherpas” from several local cultures and nationalities had to climb the mountain no less than twice. They blazed the trails, set the ropes and toe holds, established the camps, and carried the equipment and sometimes the climbers. They took the the greatest risks for the least returns. They often did so without the full complement of oxygen bottles and accoutrements of their “bosses.”
    Unlike the well-feted teams who spent tens of thousands and more, and reaped multiples of that in sponsorships, the sherpas were paid little for their efforts.efforts. Instead of gaining glamor and potential world fame, the sherpas risked alienating mountain gods and the wishes of family for their —not trivial challenges within their belief systems. They often were ignored or discounted by those they led and sometimes saved. They showed surpassing courage and dedication that, if not for Zuckerman and Padoan, would have been buried in the sky with the eleven dead climbers.
    Of the quality of the authors’ research and interpretation it need only be said that one of the strongest reviews was by Wilco van Roojen , a Dutch climber who is not always treated kindly in the book. It is difficult to tell a morality tale without indulging in self-righteous judgment. The authors have told the story in a reportorial and crisp style that makes their message the more persuasive.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2014

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