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Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2's Deadliest Day Paperback – June 3, 2013

4.6 out of 5 stars 268 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

In 2008, eleven climbers died in one day near the summit of K2. Buried in the Sky is one of the very best books on the tragedy. Pacey, compelling and clear, this is an excellent account of what happened that fateful August day. More importantly, it tells the story and reveals the lives of those Himalayan-born high-altitude workers who risked everything for their ambitious employers - some of whom paid the ultimate price. These once anonymous figures leap off the page with all their hopes and fears - and astonishing courage. --Ed Douglas, author of "Tenzing: Hero of Everest"

A well-researched, detailed, and fast-paced narrative of the 2008 disaster that claimed the lives of eleven mountaineers descending from the summit of of K2, Buried in the Sky, will appeal to every mountaineer (armchair or otherwise) interested in the climbing history of that beautiful and deadly peak. Particularly welcome is Zuckerman and Padoan s focus on the experience and lives of two Sherpa climbers, Chhiring Dorje Sherpa and Pasang Lama, who at the risk of their own lives heroically aided others in getting off the mountain safely, and without whose efforts the death count would likely have been even higher. It is reassuring to know that, even in an age of commercialized hyper-individualism on the world s highest mountains, there are some mountaineers who still live by the values of the brotherhood of the rope.' --Maurice Isserman, co-author of "Fallen Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering from the Age of Empire to the Age of Extremes"

Through phenomenal research, Zuckerman and Padoan have dug deeper than anyone else into one of the most mysterious tragedies in mountaineering history. Thanks to their efforts, the heroism and humanity of the Sherpa climbers who saved lives shine through the chaos and grief of that awful day on K2. --David Roberts, co-author of "Ks: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain" and author of "On the Ridge Between Life and Death"

I admired Buried in the Sky and enjoyed it, too. Because the authors did their homework and wrote their story well, and most of all, because credit is given at long last to those who deserve it most. --Peter Matthiessen, author of "The Snow Leopard"

Buried in the Sky isn't just the story of the worst climbing disaster in the history of the "Savage Mountain," but an important introduction to the native climbers from Pakistan, Nepal, and Tibet whose labors make most high-altitude expeditions possible, and whose heroic efforts keep the death tolls on K2, Everest, and other Himalayan peaks from rising even higher. The Sherpas climb off the page and carry a narrative that is as fast and as gripping as their superhuman ascents. --Michael Kodas, author of "High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed"

[A]n accurate, and riveting, account... a work of obsessive reporting. [The authors] weave a narrative that is hair-raising and moving, but also precise. [W]hat makes their book an indispensable addition to the genre is the way the authors explore the cultural crevasse underlying the ill-fated expeditions on K2. They provide a long-overdue historical correction to the familiar mountaineering story. --Matthew Power

It 's a testament to the thrills in this book that I scoured the notes, eager to learn how the authors wrote their account of the 2008 disaster that claimed the lives of 11 people on K2. [T]he authors commendable documentary about the people who carry the gear is overtaken by the chilling adventure story of one terrible day on the mountain.

It s a testament to the thrills in this book that I scoured the notes, eager to learn how the authors wrote their account of the 2008 disaster that claimed the lives of 11 people on K2. [T]he authors commendable documentary about the people who carry the gear is overtaken by the chilling adventure story of one terrible day on the mountain.

Enthralling... phenomenal research and vivid writing create a memorable portrait not only of the events on the mountain but also of the people who make modern high-altitude climbing possible.

Into Thin Air... was a huge success, and Buried in the Sky will satisfy anyone who loved that book.

Gripping... An absorbing book that goes beyond the typical mountaineering tale. ...This book is mesmerizing.

An informative and inspirational book... I couldn't put it down. I am proud to know of the determination and loyalty of the Sherpa climbers and their tireless efforts to risk their lives for the other climbers. --Jamling Tenzing Norgay, son of Tenzing Norgay, author of "Touching My Father's Soul"

A fast-paced narrative of one of the worst climbing disasters in the history of K2. ... Zuckerman and Padoan offer glimpses into the climbing culture that are as rare as the thin air the climbers breathe in the Death Zone. ...A provocative perspective on one of the world's most expensive and deadly athletic adventures.

Fast-paced and well researched ...a must-read for anyone fascinated by the people and politics of high-altitude mountaineering.

...[T]he authors' commendable documentary about the people who carry the gear is overtaken by the chilling adventure story of one terrible day on the mountain.

[A] revelatory look at Sherpa history and culture.... Highly recommended. --David Pitt

Enthralling phenomenal research and vivid writing create a memorable portrait not only of the events on the mountain but also of the people who make modern high-altitude climbing possible. "

A work of obsessive reporting. The authors (who are cousins) traveled across the world, conducting extensive interviews with nearly every person who was on the mountain in 2008 and using digital forensics to analyze the photographs taken that day. They weave a narrative that is hairraising and moving, but also precise crucial given the technical complexities of expeditions and the often-hazy recollections of traumatized survivors. But what makes their book an indispensable addition to the genre is the way the authors explore the cultural crevasse underlying the ill-fated expeditions on K2. They provide a long-overdue historical correction to the familiar mountaineering story. --Matthew Power"

[T]he authors commendable documentary about the people who carry the gear is overtaken by the chilling adventure story of one terrible day on the mountain. "

Gripping An absorbing book that goes beyond the typical mountaineering tale. This book is mesmerizing. "

Although Everest is the tallest mountain on earth, K2, the Savage Mountain, is a more difficult and deadly peak, and this compelling story brought back from its slopes is a worthy tale about a little-known aspect of these high-stakes climbs. "

The book takes pains to explore their culture and the burden felt by such impoverished young men who take on dangerous work that pays well yet remains an offense to the mountains they revere. Sobering. "

Fast-paced and well researched a must-read for anyone fascinated by the people and politics of high-altitude mountaineering. "

[A] page-turner addition to the library of great mountaineering books. "

[A] revelatory look at Sherpa history and culture . Highly recommended. --David Pitt"

Zuckerman and Padoan have dug deeper than anyone else. Thanks to their efforts, the heroism and humanity of the Sherpa climbers who saved lives shine through the chaos and grief of that awful day on K2. --David Roberts, co-author of Ks: Life and"

Pacey, compelling, and clear, this is an excellent account of what happened that fateful August day. The Himalayan-born high-altitude workers leap off the page with all their hopes and fears and astonishing courage. Buried in the Sky is one of the very best books on the tragedy. --Ed Douglas, author of Tenzing: Hero of Ev"

An informative and inspirational book... I couldn t put it down. I am proud to know of the determination and loyalty of the Sherpa climbers and their tireless efforts to risk their lives for the other climbers. --Jamling Tenzing Norgay, son of Tenzing Norgay, aut"

Buried in the Sky reveals the heroic deeds of the Sherpa. . . . [It] brings to light how immensely strong, loyal and talented the Sherpa climbers are. When most other climbers were faltering on the descent from the K-2 s summit, the Sherpa climbers not only rescued themselves, but also went back up to rescue others. Finally credit is given, where credit is due. --Ed Viesturs, bestselling author of No Sho"

Buried in the Sky will appeal to every mountaineer (armchair or otherwise) interested in the climbing history of K2, that beautiful and deadly peak. --Maurice Isserman, co-author of Fallen Gia"

I admired Buried in the Sky and enjoyed it, too. ...[T]he authors did their homework and wrote their story well... credit is given at long last to those who deserve it most. --Peter Matthiessen, author of The Snow Leo"

Buried in the Sky is a gripping account of that fateful day in 2008 when eleven climbers lost their lives on K2. As it unravels the series of events that resulted from the unbridled ambition set loose on a dangerous mountain, it probes deeply into the lives of those courageous and unheralded professionals the thin-air workhorses from Nepal and Pakistan. Heartbreaking. Sober. Compelling. --Bernadette McDonald, author of Freedom Cl"

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, bestselling author of Cr"

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (June 3, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393345416
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393345414
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (268 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I'm one of the few survivors of the K2 'triumph and tragedy' expedition in 2008! I wrote a book myself 'Surving K2', i read a lot about this historical expedition. A lot of crap was written, mostly by people who have no idea or understanding what mountaineering is all about. But this book 'Buried in the Sky' surpasses my expectations. All the media attention was focused on the Western climbers. This book describe in detail the cultural difference and importance of the Eastern climbers. On one hand we think we are living in two separated worlds, and on the other hand (especially when climbing mountains together) we are one and the same human beings. We have to face the same problems in our families when disasters happens. But the brilliant thing of this book is the accuracy and precision of the almost 4 years of research after the whole tragedy happend. Even i was surprised in details reading the story of the lives of the Sherpa's but mostly the lives of the HAP's (Pakistani High Altitude climbers).
A must to read!
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Format: Hardcover
You don't need to be a mountaineer to enjoy this book. It's an intoxicating story of courage and ambition at the edges of survival. And, for me at least, it was more than that, too - a window into a culture that fundamentally challenges the way I look at the world. I loved the book, and when I finished it, I felt smarter.

The story literally starts with a cliffhanger. It's midnight. Two freezing Sherpas are climbing without ropes, dodging falling blocks of ice. Then they slip, sliding down the deadliest stretch of of K2, a mountain in Pakistan that's considered much more dangerous and difficult than Everest.

Then it's about 30 years earlier. We're in the Sherpas' villages. We learn how the older Sherpas consider mountain climbing a sin, how mountain gods shape the lives of the Sherpas, why Sherpas almost always have one of seven names. We follow the main character, Chhiring Dorje Sherpa. His mother dies, his dad goes mad, his family needs to
eat and Chhiring, at age 14 starts climbing Everest. He eventually becomes one of the best climbers in the world, escorting the more celebrated western mountaineers up peak after peak.

As Chhiring and others start to climb K2 and the 2008 disaster unfolds, characters who dislike each other are forced to hang from the same ropes. A giant block of ice breaks off all the ropes, trapping the climbers near near the summit. Some people are buried alive. Some go crazy or freeze or are left to hang tangled in rope. Several are heroically saved under devastating conditions. The Sherpas, in many cases, save the day.

In all, "Buried in the Sky" is incredible storytelling and an eye-opening education. It's one of the best non-fiction books I have read in decades.
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Format: Hardcover
This book sets the gold standard for a new style of mountaineering literature. Not only does it make visible the indigenous climbers upon whom everyone else's success depends, but it provides an inside look at the cultures and the spiritual traditions that enable them to face death on one expedition after another and to risk their lives to save others. Amazingly, it is a fast moving adventure story as well.

Zuckerman and Padoan are to be commended for their attention to detail as they convey the essence of Balti, Ajak Bhote and Sherpa culture from an insider's point of view. If you've ever wanted to know more about Himalayan mountaineering than the story from the western point of view, or wanted to get past the travelogue portrayals of the high altitude climbing sherpas whatever their ethnicity, this is the one book that covers both.

And finally, this is the story of a unique hero by anyone's standards. Chhiring Dorjee deserves to be a household name and his actions a model for all mountaineers. Climbers speak often of the brotherhood of the rope. Chhiring lived up to the highest level of that ideal with his inspiring quote, "we will either live together or die together" and his life saving actions that day. Not surprisingly, he also also engages in village development work during his free time, proving that the ideals of cooperative mountaineering are useful elsewhere.

Of course I am somewhat biased as I am an anthropologist with a mountaineering background ,who has studied Chhring's home area of Rolwaling Valley for almost 40 years. And yes, I know him personally.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a fan of Into Thin Air and an uncle to the authors, I was looking forward to this book about the conquest of K2 from the viewpoint of the high altitude workers commonly referred to as Sherpas. Once I started reading this book I couldn't put it down. The authors provide a look into Sherpa culture and the conflict between that culture, the desire to conquer the worlds most difficult summits, and also secure a financial advantage for their families who live an impoverished life in a spectacular setting. The climbing sequences are gripping, heroic, and tragic. I felt that I could hear the ice crack and the avalanches roar as they crushed and consumed the unfortunate. As with most tragic accidents a series of small missteps and bad judgment lead to the death of 11 climbers in one day in August 2008. I have no desire to scale 8000 meter peaks but if you ever do be sure to bring enough rope!
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