Thursday, January 7, 2010


This a book review I wrote for our park magazine. This story was number one on the New York Times paperback non-fiction list for more than two years, and is still on the list. It is a remarkable story!

Greg stumbled down the mountain, lost, sick, nearly frozen, and most unhappy because he had failed to reach the summit of K2, the second highest mountain in the Himalaya’s. He missed a turn on the trail, and failed to cross the bridge that spans the river below, and staggered into a little Balti village named Korphe, the residents of which were reputed to be not very friendly. But the villagers took him in and nursed him back to health. Greg was so grateful that when he saw the village children going to “school” outside and scratching their lessons in the dirt with sticks, he vowed to return and build a school. This was going to take some doing since Greg had no money, and hadn’t the faintest idea how to build anything!

This has to be the most unusual and exciting adventure saga I have ever read. Consider this: The story takes place in such well known locales as Berkeley, California; Seattle, Washington; and Bozeman, Montana. It also takes place in locations called Korphe, Skardu, and Waziristan. Characters include a cranky, brilliant millionaire scientist named Jean Hoerni, an illiterate wise man called Haji Ali, and a sleazy businessman by the name of Changazi, among many others.

The hero of the story is sometimes called “Dr. Greg”, even though he is not a doctor. He was born in Minnesota, raised in Tanzania in the shadow of Mt. Kiliminjaro, where he learned mountain climbing. He grew to be six foot four, he studied nursing, and has a facility for languages.

The most unusual thing about this tale is that the whole story is true! Greg Mortenson went through many hazards and obstacles to accomplish his goal. That cranky, brilliant millionaire suggested that Greg establish The Central Asia Institute (CAI) devoted to building schools for both boys and girls in the more remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Greg not only got the school built in Korphe, but to date the CAI has educated some 25 thousand youngsters. (That is not a misprint.) And as of the last I'd heard, CAI has built more than 130 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Obviously, I highly recommend this book, and you will, too!

When my wife asked if Greg Mortenson were still alive, I looked him up on Google. I then told my wife, “He better be. He has speaking engagements into 2009!”

Incidentally, Greg will be on the Bill Moyers program Friday, January 8, on PBS. Check it out.

Humor --

A builder in this town apparently had never been told that turning back time was impossible. A sign at his building zone read: COMING SOON -- HISTORIC SITE.

Apparently a mud-covered car parked at the side of the road had insulted someone’s sensibilities, for written in the mud was: ALSO AVAILABLE IN WHITE.


  1. The wrong turn on the trail turned out to be the right turn. Serendipity.

  2. Thank goodness he fell off that mountain. And thank you for the nudge--I've been meaning to read that book. Speaking of which, I highly highly recommend "Mountains Beyond Mountains," about a Harvard doctor who set up a health clinic, first, and eventually schools and better housing in Haiti. Dr. Paul Farmer also has had a millionaire backing him and helping him raise outside funds. I became a strong believer in donating to Heifer International after reading that book.