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Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2's Deadliest Day Hardcover – June 11, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 275 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"'Into Thin Air' ... was a huge success, and "Buried in the Sky" will satisfy anyone who loved that book." (Boston Globe)

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. (The Wall Street Journal)

Winner of the National Outdoor Book Award, the Banff Mountain Book Award and the George Orwell Prize.

“[E]asily the most riveting and important mountaineering book of the past decade.” (Outside Magazine)

“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.” (Wall Street Journal)

“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 - Men's Journal)

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 Shortcuts to the Top and K2: Life and Death on the World’s Most Dangerous Mountain)

“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 Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain and author of On the Ridge Between Life and Death)

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

“Gripping… An absorbing book that goes beyond the typical mountaineering tale. …This book is mesmerizing.” (Deseret News)

“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 Everest)

“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)

“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.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

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 Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering from the Age of Empire to the Age of Extremes)

“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.” (Library Journal)

“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 Leopard)

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 Climbers)

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 Crazy for the Storm)

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 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.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Fast-paced and well researched …a must-read for anyone fascinated by the people and politics of high-altitude mountaineering.” (Bookpage)

“…[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.” (Smithsonian Magazine)

“[A] page-turner addition to the library of great mountaineering books.” (Portland Monthly)

“[A] revelatory look at Sherpa history and culture…. Highly recommended.” (David Pitt - Booklist)

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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (June 11, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393079880
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393079883
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (275 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #477,179 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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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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