Scott Darsney, the former climbing partner of Greg Mortenson, is speaking out in support of his onetime colleague. In an e-mail sent to Outside from Nepal--where Darsney has been in and out of contact since April 17, when the 60 Minutes broadcast on Mortenson aired--Darsney questions two factual points attributed to him in “Three Cups of Deceit,” Jon Krakauer's lengthy indictment of Mortenson, published by Byliner on April 18. In addition, Darsney's e-mail makes a more sweeping judgment about what he sees as a lack of context in recent attacks on Mortenson.
“If Jon Krakauer and some of Greg's detractors had taken the time to have three or more cups of tea with Greg and others--instead of one cup of tea with a select few who would discredit him--they would have found some minor problems and transgressions. But to the extent to call it all 'lies' and 'fraud'? No way.”
Darsney had just returned to Kathmandu from Nepal's mountainous Khumbu region last week to find the world of adventure philanthropy in an uproar. Krakauer used Darsney's testimony to support one of his central allegations: that key events in Mortenson's 2006 memoir, Three Cups of Tea, were “born of fantasy, audacity, and an apparently insatiable hunger for esteem.”
In Three Cups of Tea, Mortenson wrote that, having failed to summit K2 in September of 1993, he became separated from Darsney on the way down from the mountain and stumbled into the Pakistani village of Korphe, where he was nursed back to health over a period lasting at least several days. Before he left the village, Mortenson promised to return and build a school.
Relying on interviews with Darsney and others, Krakauer maintained that the Korphe story was entirely fabricated, that Mortenson and Darsney were together during the hike down from K2, and that Mortenson didn't go to Korphe for the first time until 1994. In an interview with Outside's Alex Heard last week, Mortenson admitted that many elements in the Three Cups of Tea version were false but insisted that he had stumbled into Korphe in 1993 and remained there for several hours.
Krakauer wrote of that 1993 retreat from the world's second-highest peak: “When they drove out of the mountains, Darsney assured me, Mortenson 'didn't know Korphe existed.'“ In his e-mail, Darsney disputes whether such certainty about the matter is supportable.
“Yes, I did say to Jon Krakauer that Greg didn't go to Korphe until 1994,” Darsney wrote to Heard,* who'd tried to contact him before the 60 Minutes broadcast. “However, on our way out, Greg got lost ... somewhere between the Biafo glacier region and Askole. About half a day later, Greg finally showed up in Askole saying he'd made a major wrong turn. He'd ended up in a village on the wrong side of the Braldu River. It's certainly plausible that this was Korphe.”
Additionally, Darsney weighs in on Krakauer's debunking of Mortenson's climbing résumé. Krakauer wrote: “Scott Darsney, Greg's climbing partner on K2, confirms that Mortenson had never been to the Himalaya or Karakoram before going to K2.”