KATHMANDU: It was all over the news — the 2008 K2 tragedy in Pakistan that killed 11 mountaineers took the front page of many newspapers worldwide. Everyone was shocked, and mountaineer Amanda Padoan was no exception. People she had known had perished in the mountain and she was bothered and upset.
In the ensuing media coverage, many westerners were interviewed, but nobody talked to the people who had helped them climb the mountain.
“What about the guys who carried the packs and set the ropes?”
The book — Buried In The Sky is the answer. Padoan proposed this to her cousin Peter Zuckerman, an American journalist — to write a book which Zuckerman thought “was a very good idea”. Buried In The Sky was born three years ago.
“When we write history books, they are written by kings and really important people and you know only their side of story. You get an incomplete story,” Zuckerman says adding that there are many mountaineering books which “are basically Western climbers’ point of view”.
Presenting the voices that were ignored, the book “about the amazing Sherpa climbers who are so good” is ready, and Zuckerman wants to bring the book first to them as it is about them and offer them a sneak preview of the same.
About the book, he says, “It is a true adventure story told by the Sherpas and high altitude workers.” The story focuses on the two heroes — Chhiring Dorje Sherpa and Pasang Lama, who were the rescuers in the K2 disaster.
Zuckerman shares he has always been interested in marginalised people and his first book on Sherpa climbers had become a passion.
Calling them “very accomplished climbers” he adds, “The climbers of Nepal are so good that when people climb mountains in other countries, they bring the Sherpas from Nepal. They want the best people to help them.”
This is what had happened in K2 in 2008, and Sherpa and Lama were among the Nepali climbers who had gone to help climbers there. Everything was going fine until the worst struck on August 1, and “in that huge disaster, they pulled out the most incredible, difficult and dangerous rescue”.
“K2 is a very difficult and dangerous mountain,” points out Zuckerman.
Along with gripping stories of life and death, the book has photographs and moments of “people before they died and waiting for rescue and crazy decisions” along with in-depth stories on Sherpa climbers.
Why another story on Sherpas? “When climbers come to Nepal, they say they want a Sherpa, but they don’t know who a Sherpa is,” answers Zuckerman.
He sees them as “the best climbers in the world holding a mythical and legendary status” which other climbers don’t grasp.
“When your life hangs by a knot, you need to know who tied it,” opines Zuckerman.
In mountaineering, Sherpas and their stories matter a lot to any climber as “we depend on Sherpas. That is why people need to respect them.”
If that understanding and respect is established, he opines “people can work together and mountaineering would be safer”.
Also, people can learn a lot from each other. He also shares that he learnt a lot during his
The book took three years to complete and it took him around the world for research and to the remote places of Nepal to talk to the Sherpas as well as the
survivors of K2.
With Buried In The Sky, Zuckerman wants to “provide a historical correction to mountaineering stories, so that these accounts include the perspectives of the Sherpas and other high-altitude workers”.
He hopes “this book, by including the Sherpas’ perspectives, provides us with a greater understanding and a deeper respect of the Sherpas and other high-altitude workers”.
Moreover, he feels the need to include the Sherpas’ perspective so that we can “learn from our past”. “When crucial perspectives like the Sherpas’ are omitted, we fail to learn as much and repeat our past mistakes,” he expresses.
The sneak preview of the book will be held on May 28 at the Nepal Tourism Board. The book will be launched on June 11.