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

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

by Peter Zuckerman, Amanda Padoan


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Winner of the National Outdoor Book Award and the Banff Mountain Book Award for Mountain Literature

"Gripping, intense…Buried in the Sky will satisfy anyone who loved [Into Thin Air]." —Kate Tuttle, Boston Globe

When eleven climbers died on K2 in 2008, two Sherpas survived. Their astonishing tale became the stuff of mountaineering legend. This white-knuckle adventure follows the Sherpas from their remote villages in Nepal to the peak of the world’s most dangerous mountain, recounting one of the most dramatic disasters in alpine history from a fascinating new perspective.

Winner of the NCTE George Orwell Award and an official selection of the American Alpine Club Book Club.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393345414
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 06/03/2013
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 113,578
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Peter Zuckerman is a non-fiction writer. He has received some of the most prestigious recognitions in American journalism. At age 26 he won the Livingston Award, the largest, all-media, general reporting prize in America. His writing has also received is the National Journalism Award and the Blethan Award.

Amanda Padoan is a historian who writes about communities affected by armed conflict. She holds degrees from Harvard and University of Cambridge. Her first book, Buried in the Sky, received the National Outdoor Book Award.

Table of Contents

List of Maps ix

List of Characters xi

Author's Note xv

Prologue: The Death Zone 1

Part I Ambition

1 Summit Fever 11

2 Doorway to Heaven 28

3 The Prince and the Porter 48

4 The Celebrity Ethnicity 64

5 Insha' Allah 77

Part II Conquest

6 The Approach 95

7 Weather Gods 107

8 Ghost Winds 124

9 Through the Bottleneck 142

Part III Descent

10 Escape from the Summit 163

11 Sonam 175

12 Survival 185

13 Buried in the Sky 193

14 The Fearless Five 204

15 The Next Life 217

Acknowledgments 231

Background Notes 235

Selected Bibliography 259

Index 261


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.

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Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2's Deadliest Day 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Bob_A_Schelfhout More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Maybe not a total mountaineering book, but for anyone reading about this part of the mountaineering world it is almost a must read. Often forgotten, the sherpa's story is presented here in detail and with feeling. What goes on "behind the scenes" to make a expedition happen, and what has been going on for years with these people is put forth here with heartfelt stories and well researched detail. If you're going to this region or if you're going to read about mountain climbing here, you really ought to read this and consider a point of view that isn't often presented. Good read!
mdt2 More than 1 year ago
Absolutely great. Excellent writing, compelling story, good pictures, appropriate maps. A "page turner" of the best kind. Becomes more difficult to put down about a third of the way into the book. Includes scientific (e.g. pulmonary and cerebral edema, hypothermia, and what results to the body when caught in an avalanche, etc.), but  that helps to educate the reader. A little hard to keep track of who's who, but wonderful coverage of the cultural and religious differences between the climbers. Descriptions of the climbers could not be better. All in all, I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for an adventure book. I felt like I was there.  
DStan58DS More than 1 year ago
All mountaineers (& mountaineering fans) realize that many of the greatest feats in alpinism would not have occurred without the work of the indigenous people of the Himalayas. Until recently, all but ignored by climbers and the press, "Buried" gives these men and women their due. The book lays out the various groups lumped together as "sherpas" and gives you an inside look at a major climb from the 'insider's" point of view. Nicely done.
Mikesviews More than 1 year ago
Provides great back ground info of climbers.The detailed presentation of the events of this tragic K2 climb make this a can't put down read! It's obvious the authors did a great deal of one-on-one research.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While it may appeal to some readers much of the book focused on the region and background of the local/native climbers from childhood to how they landed the jobs as well as how they dealt with the aftermath. The actual days and events of the K2 climb was intense reading but was relatively short and book-ended by the before mentioned.
DivingProf More than 1 year ago
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.
philborden More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book very compelling just a slow start but its worth the read
MinTwinsNY More than 1 year ago
Much has been written about the tragedy on K2 in August 2008 in which eleven souls were lost. However, this book tells the story of the Sherpas on that expedition, whether they were among the dead or survived the mission. Their stories as well as their culture and beliefs are discussed in this excellent book by Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan. The book begins in the Bottleneck, which is located on the most dangerous section of the mountain known as the Death Zone. There one of the Sherpas, Chirring Dorje, finds fellow Sherpa Pasang Lama stranded without some of his vital equipment. Instead of continuing onward, Chirring stays with Pasang and becomes part of a very famous rescue. From there, the book is a page turner, alternating between descriptions of this particular climb and subsequent disaster and discussions on the lifestyle of the Sherpas. These passages are some of the most fascinating in the book as a reader will learn about the Sherpa culture, their beliefs, their myths and the strong bonds many of them have to family. One of the most fascinating aspects of their mythology is that it is believed that their supreme goddess sustains herself on human flesh and that deaths of climbers occur when she is hungry. Their simple lifestyle when not climbing and their substantial financial windfall when paid by climbers (especially those with commercial sponsors, such as those on this mission) was also discussed in excellent detail. While the climbers’ fates are also featured, other books on this expedition usually provide more details about their stories. This book was written to show the work of those who usually do not get the credit they deserve and was told through their viewpoint – which was a joy to read as it told of this tragic day from a completely different perspective.
JanaRose1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In 2008 eleven climbers died on K2, one of the world¿s most dangerous mountains. This book differs from prior books about the K2 disaster, because it is written from the perspective of the Sherpa. It discusses the history of K2, and discusses in detail the lives of Sherpa¿s Chhiring and Pasang.The book started out a bit slow. It threw a lot of names out, which made it difficult to get to know anyone. Once the book got to the actual event, it was shocking how one or two missteps led to the death of so many. Overall, I thought the book was very well written. It was apparent that a lot of research and interviews went into writing this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book completely captivated me, and left me in awe of the strength and courage of the people on K2 on that day in 2008. I couldn't put it down as the story was unfolding, it's hard to put yourself in that place and truly appreciate how thin the line was between life and death for so many of these climbers. I hope others who read this come away with the same appreciation I did for the Sherpas as human beings, family men, and extremely brave, skilled, and talented climbers, deserving of our respect & recognition.
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