Two men, one a wealthy American mountaineer, the other a Nepalese Sherpa, are trapped by a terrible storm in a tent on the upper reaches of K2, the second highest mountain on earth. The American climber has been severely weakened by an extended stay in the thin air of the Death Zone, the label mountaineers assign to altitudes of over 26,000 feet. He is semi-conscious and adamant that he is unable to descend. The Sherpa, the expedition’s sirdar or leader of the team of high altitude porters, is faced with a set of difficult decisions. Some of these decisions are technical. When will the storm abate? How will he manage to lead his weakened sahib down the mountain? Other decisions address ethical issues. To what extent is the sirdar responsible for the life of his American employer, his sahib? At what point is he released from the moral obligation to assist the weaken climber? How is his decision influenced by the yawning cultural gap between a rich Western sportsman and an impoverished Buddhist peasant?
Sirdar – A Tragic Tale of Sherpa Heroism on K2 is a fictionalized re-examination of the facts surrounding the dramatic deaths in 1939 of these men. Based upon actual mountaineering history, this accounting fills in the gaps in the factual record of one of the great mountaineering controversies, the abandonment of American climber Dudley Wolfe at a camp near the summit of K2, and the efforts of a team of Sherpa high altitude porters, led by Pasang Kikuli, to rescue him. What history records is that Wolfe and the Sherpas disappeared on the upper reaches of K2. Remaining unresolved for over seven decades have been three questions. When did they die? Where did they die? How did they die? Sirdar attempts to answer to these questions.
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