Local author Peter Zuckerman goes to world’s edge to make the hidden visible

By Nick Mattos, PQ Monthly

Celebrated local journalist Peter Zuckerman has released his first book, the nonfiction wilderness adventure “Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2’s Deadliest Day.”

“Buried in the Sky’ is a true adventure story about one of the most dramatic disasters in alpine history, as told through the eyes of the Sherpa climbers,” Zuckerman explains. “In 2008, 11 people died in 27 hours. The disaster unfolded on K2, a mountain that straddles China and Pakistan and is largely considered the world’s most dangerous peak in high-altitude climbing.”

Zuckerman has already made a formidable name for himself in the journalistic world. A recipient of the National Journalism Award, the Livingston Award, and the Bletheny Award, he has served as visiting faculty at the prestigious Poynter Institute and been profiled by Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation for Excellence in Journalism as an example of courage in journalism.

Peter Zuckerman
Much of this attention came after a groundbreaking series of investigative reports Zuckerman crafted for the Idaho Falls Post Register, looking at the cover-up of a multi-state child molestation case involving at least two-dozen minors by the Boy Scouts of America and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The series led to Frank VanderSloot, who has since become presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s national finance co-chair, outing Zuckerman as gay in a newspaper ad.

Since his days in the investigative trenches, Zuckerman has shifted his focus towards stories with an adventurous environmental edge. However, his work continues to carry the theme of making hidden things seen and heard. Ultimately, it was this impulse that led him to take a hiatus from his position at the Oregonian to embark upon penning “Buried in the Sky” with his co-author and cousin, Amanda Padoan.

“Besides being a great adventure tale,” he says, “what made me want to write this book is that it dramatically illustrates how we need to include the stories of the people who are unseen. When your life hangs from a knot, you need to know who tied it. When you’re putting together a team of Sherpas to lead you up a mountain, you need to know whether they speak the same language. This book shows how the Sherpas of every story matter because our lives depend on them.”

Since its release on June 11, the book has received high praise for shedding light upon the previously-unshared story of the impact mountaineering has upon the Himalayan people.

“The book takes pains to explore their culture and the burden felt by such impoverished young men,” noted Library Journal in their review, “ who take on dangerous work that pays well yet remains an offense to the mountains they revere.”

Described by reviewers as “sobering,” “revelatory,” and “compelling,” “Buried in the Sky” is certain to further expand Zuckerman’s profile as one of the most skilled and courageous investigative writers of the modern era.

“Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2’s Deadliest Day,” by Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan (2012: W. W. Norton & Company).