Book tells story of climbers; author talk is Friday in Steamboat
June 20, 2012
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs resident Dr. Eric Meyer first met Chhiring Dorje Sherpa on Mount Everest in 2004.
"I was immediately drawn to his energy and his sense of humor," said Meyer, a physician who has traveled the world climbing high peaks. "That's when we formed a strong friendship."
Dorje is the central figure in the new book "Buried in the Sky" for all of the same reasons Meyer befriended the Nepali: his leadership, his reverence for the mountains and, mostly importantly, his precious regard for human life.
"Some of them do it just as a job, but other Sherpas like Chhiring just have a deep love for climbing and being in the mountains," Meyer said. "It's not just a job for him."
Four years after they first met, the pair would climb K2 as members of the same team. Eleven of the 25 people who reached the summit that day never would make it down.
But Dorje made it, and he did it with another climber tethered to his harness.
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It's that particular rescue — one small but heroic story from the 27 hours of tragedy that ensued that day on K2 — that captured mountaineer and writer Amanda Padoan.
She had lost a friend that day on what's known as the Savage Mountain and decided Dorje's rescue would be the lens through which she'd tell the story of the Sherpas and Pakistani high-altitude porters — the unspoken heroes of high-altitude mountaineering.
"Buried in the Sky" was published June 11, and there will be an author talk and reception Friday at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore in Steamboat Springs. The cost is $10.
Padoan will appear along with Meyer and Dorje, who is visiting the United States from his home in Katmandu.
Furthering the Steamboat connection to "Buried in the Sky," Dorje is planning to move to Steamboat soon with his family and hopes to open a restaurant specializing in Sherpa food.
'We're all human'
Meyer and the rest of his American team turned back before the summit and headed to Camp IV. He assisted with rescues and medical care to frostbitten survivors at the camp. And after four years, it's not as difficult as it used to be to return to that day in his mind.
"I think that there's good lessons to be learned in terms of decision making on big mountains," he said. "With time comes some further analysis of what happened or what might have been done differently. It's just a reminder of how impartial the mountain is. And it's up to the climber to exercise their judgment. The mountain doesn't care if you live or die."
Although two books and a movie on the disaster already have appeared, Meyer said this one is unique in its perspective on the cultural history of the high-altitude workers and their deep connections to the world's tallest mountains.
"I would hope (readers) would take away from the book a sense of what drives people to climb high mountains and that there's a certain commonality in that across cultures," Meyer said. "At the end of the day, we're all human. We all have our strengths and our weaknesses. We have to work together to get up and to get down mountains like this."
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com
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