The Paw Print
Masood Ahmad sits quietly in his third story office overlooking the northern Adams State College campus. His office walls are lined with children’s drawings; his desk, unlike many college faculty members, is well kept, with a single laptop and a few small stacks of paper. Ahmad, like his office, shows few signs of his mountaineering days. Instead, Ahmad looks more like a proper businessman doing proper business.
After reading an 80-page document and viewing a CBS investigative report, Ahmad posted a simple comment on Jon Krakauer’s Facebook wall. The comment would bring Ahmad attention from news outlets nationwide.
“Mortenson absolutely did not go there,” Ahmad wrote on Krakauer’s Facebook wall. The quote, of course, refers to famed “Three Cups of Tea” author and humanitarian Greg Mortenson. Ahmad’s interest in Mortenson’s story, however, arises from personal experiences in the K-2 region of Pakistan where Mortenson’s story takes place.
With a distinctly South Asian accent, Ahmad explains that K-2 is the second largest mountain in world. Mortenson claims that the climbing expedition between he and his crew took a turn for the worse when the climbers became lost on their return from the mountain. After taking a wrong fork in the trail, the climbers “stumbled” into Korphe, a small village near the base of K-2.
“Three Cups of Tea” continues Mortenson’s goodwill tour through the Pakistani mountains where he established the Central Asia Institute. The institute is supposed to be a series of schools located in the K-2 region where Mortenson climbed. The institute’s purpose is to give the children of the area a better education.
During the same time, Ahmad traveled to a K-2 base camp – all the while Mortenson was coming embarking on the adventures that he claims make his book. An avid outdoorsman and founder of Concordia Expeditions – a Pakistani travel company that specializes in outdoor adventures – Ahmad had personally trekked many of the trails on K-2, knew the landscape, and knew what could and could not be done.
“The book did not jive well with me,” Ahmad said about Mortenson’s bestseller, “the people, the routes.”
After reading the book once in 2006 and noticing some discrepancies, Ahmad emailed Mortenson expressing his concerns with some of the facts as laid out in “Three Cups of Tea.” Mortenson explained via email how his facts are correct and how his story makes perfect sense.
Ahmad decided to “sleep on it.”
Two years later Ahmad was hired at Adams State College. The common reading experience – the program that selects a book that incoming freshman are required to read each year – happened to be Mortenson’s “Three Cups of Tea.”
“We tried to get Mortenson to come speak,” Ahmad said. “He said he was too busy.”
Instead, Mortenson had his newly appointed director of the campaign Pennies for Peace visit ASC. During this time, ASC contributed to CAI. ASC’s contribution was supposed to go to the CAI’s schools and mission for peace around the world.
“I really wanted Mortenson to come,” Ahmad said. “I wanted to ask him ‘How did you get lost?’”
According to Ahmad, the wrong fork in the trail that Mortenson took runs into a large river with no crossings or bridges. “It’s impossible,” Ahmad said of reaching Korphe from Mortenson’s trail. “You cannot just take [the wrong fork] and end up in Korphe.”
Shortly after Ahmad came to ASC and “Three Cups of Tea” was featured as the campus “common reading experience, ” Krakauer released an 80-page publication condemning the book and Mortenson. “Three Cups of Deceit” raised many questions about the validity of Mortenson’s book, the CAI, and possible misappropriation of money donated to the CAI.
Ahmad read the document and reread “Three Cups of Tea.” The book did not make sense. Then the “60 Minutes” investigation aired.
“Mortenson absolutely did not go there.”
This simple Facebook post gave Krakauer another credible source, a source about Korphe. Suddenly, Ahmad finds himself entrenched in the “Three Cups of Tea” controversy.
“I want the truth to come out,” Ahmad said. He argues that the fundamental premise of Mortenson’s book is based on fabrications. “It has only led to more discrepancies.”
“Rock and Ice” and “Outside” magazines have interviewed Ahmad. The Wall Street Journal used those interviews to publish an article based on Ahmad’s claims.
Moretenson still contends that the stories and details in “Three Cups of Tea” are factual. Mortenson declined a “60 Minutes” interview request and has relative silence on the matter.