A glance at disputed passages in Three Cups of Tea

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Greg Mortenson's best-selling book Three Cups of Tea came under intense scrutiny after 60 Minutes, author Jon Krakauer and some people in the book said some of the stories were fabricated. Here is a glance at some of those stories, what is being disputed and Mortenson's response in a recent interview with The Associated Press.


Three Cups of Tea: Mortenson stumbled upon the Pakistani village of Korphe in fall 1993 after trekking from the base camp of K2, the world's second-highest peak. He spent days in the village recovering from the descent.

The dispute: Mortenson could not have wandered to Korphe on that trip because it is on the opposite side of the Braldu River, which could not be crossed without reaching Mortenson's original destination on the opposite shore, the village of Askole. Author Jon Krakauer says no bridge crossing existed. Krakauer says he interviewed a climber and others who confirmed a bridge was at that location before and after that period, but not at the time Mortenson was there.

Mortenson's response: Mortenson insists he went to Korphe over a narrow footbridge, and disputes Krakauer's assertions to the contrary. Mortenson has acknowledged that he spent only a few hours there, not days as was depicted in the book.


Three Cups of Tea: Mortenson promised the villagers of Korphe that he would build them a school, after they nursed him back to health. That promise forever changed his life, and he dedicated himself to building schools in Central Asia.

The dispute: Since Mortenson never went to Korphe, he couldn't have promised to build them a school. However, he did promise the villagers of Khane to the southeast that he would build them a school, but he reneged on that promise and instead built it in Korphe. A fundraising plea written by Mortenson in 1994 backs up the claim that he wanted to build the school in Khane, and it makes no mention of Korphe.

Mortenson's response: Mortenson now says he visited both Korphe and Khane villages during that 1993 trip, and promised the residents of both that he would build schools for them. He says he planned to first build the Khane school but then switched to Korphe after finding a lack of local support and corruption in the first.


Three Cups of Tea: Mortenson was kidnapped and held hostage by militants in the remote Pakistani region of Waziristan. They took his passport and money, kept him under armed guard and monitored his every movement. He won his freedom after asking for a Koran and telling his captors that his wife was expecting a child.

The dispute: People who were there described Mortenson as a guest in Waziristan, not a hostage. A photo released by those them show him with his supposed captors, with Mortenson brandishing an AK-47.

Mortenson's response: Mortenson stands by his story, though he says he regrets the unflattering descriptions of his captors in Three Cups of Tea.