Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time Chapter Summaries

Greg Mortenson

Chapter 1 Summary

Failure

The setting is as beautiful as it is treacherous. It is the Karakoram mountain range in Pakistan, where no one is there to see what Greg Mortenson sees. Here, more than sixty of the world’s tallest mountains stand watch over the barren terrain virtually untouched by either man or beast. The second-highest peak in the world, K2, is part of this treacherous range. It rises to a height of 28,267 feet and is considered by most climbers to be the most difficult climb on the planet. On September 2, 1993, Mortenson is unaware that he has wandered away from the rest of his party as they trek down the mountain. Instead of heading west toward a village fifty miles away, he is heading south into treacherous icefall territory and the inevitable fighting along the Pakistan–India border. His porter is carrying nearly all of his gear, including his tent, sleeping bag, and almost all of his food; Mortenson is lost in contemplation and fails to pay attention to his surroundings. He is thinking about failure as he touches a necklace tucked into the recesses of his coat pocket.

The necklace is Christa’s, his sister who was not supposed to live an active, meaningful life after her bout with meningitis at age twelve. The family was living in Tanzania, where the parents were missionaries. Greg was twelve years older than Christa, and he determined she would live a “normal” life in as many ways as possible. When they moved back to Minnesota, he taught her how to use the public transportation system, helped her get a job, and did whatever else he felt would make her an independent woman. Wherever he went, Christa came to visit her brother for a month every year. When Greg was an Army medic in Germany, in nursing school in South Dakota, studying neurophysiology in Indiana, or living out of his car in California, Christa came to visit. They experienced the grand things Greg knew his sister loved, like the Kentucky Derby, the Indy 500, Disneyland, and Yosemite. Christa died unexpectedly at the age of twenty-three, and he had determined to scale K2 and leave his sister’s necklace at the peak as a tribute to her.

But he failed. Three months ago, at the beginning of this journey, thirty-five-year-old Greg was in high spirits and relishing the adventure ahead. K2 is called Savage Peak, and it provides “the ultimate test” for climbers. The mountain is so steep that snow cannot settle on its ridges, but that was not daunting to Mortenson, as he had climbed Kilimanjaro at the age of eleven. He had been so close, only six hundred meters away,...

(The entire section is 1055 words.)