Though I'm currently engrossed in producing my first full pop/rock album, I recently took some time to read Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2’s Deadliest Day. The book, published in 2012 and written by Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan, revolves around the series of fatalities that occurred just below the summit of K2 in August 2008.
I’ve read scores of books over the years that recount mountaineering epics, but this one is different. Although it does what most readers of the genre will want it to do – it describes the accidents and their surrounding circumstances in the best detail the second-hand authors could muster – it also shines the spotlight on the people who have mostly labored in the shadowy fringes of the genre: the Sherpas.
The first few chapters of the book trace the trajectories of the Sherpas involved in the disaster. What these chapters do is firmly establish in the readers mind that the Sherpas are not second-class sidekicks, but fully-fledged actors on par with their (mostly) white counterparts. And what the book as a whole does is show that, although many of the people involved are competent mountaineers, they are vulnerable human beings who willingly put themselves in harm’s way and suffered the consequences.
If you are looking for a mountaineering book that portrays glorious heroes, this is probably not for you. However, if what you are looking for is a very well-written, thoroughly researched and engaging account of a contemporary mountaineering disaster, then I recommend this book.