Pete Takeda writing in 2007 in Rock and Ice:
I stumbled upon the legend of Nanda Devi and Nanda Kot and the lost CIA plutonium on a cold October night in 1987, sitting with friends, swilling cheap malt liquor around a roaring campfire in Yosemite. To my best recollection, Tucker recounted the most outrageous climbing yarn I’d ever heard. Tucker, whose low-slung build lent him an authoritative air, was one of those whose expression becomes more earnest and animated with each drink.
Before falling from buzzed eloquence to drunken rambling, the swaying Tucker cast a spellbinding tale of legendary climbers, CIA spooks, radioactive poison and mountains bigger than we could imagine.
Tucker’s story went like this: Elite climbers were trained by the CIA and paid huge sums of money to carry an atomic-powered spy gadget to the top of an undisclosed peak. The stage for the 007-esque drama was the Himalayas. Somehow this plutonium-powered device was lost or stolen, now either providing the fissile juice to a secret Pakistani nuke or threatening every man, woman and child in India with deadly radiation in the form of contaminated run-off into the Ganges River.
Hunkered around the campfire, I don’t think any of us really believed the CIA recruited climbers as spies or that several pounds of the deadliest substance known to man lay buried at the source of the Ganges River. But the story intrigued me, and nearly 20 years later I began investigating Tucker’s bizarre story, a story whose facts proved to be more outrageous than even the best fiction writer could spin.