Everest brawl: climbers fight on famous mountain
Police near Mount Everest are investigating reports of a fight on the upper reaches of the world’s highest mountain between two foreign climbers and their Nepalese guides, officials said on Sunday.
“We were told our clients and the guides fought on their way to camp three. We don’t have all the details yet, but our clients have come down off the peak,” said Anish Gupta of Cho-Oyu Trekking, the Kathmandu-based company that organised the expedition.
He said that one of the clients, a Swiss national, had descended the mountain and was currently waiting for a flight back to Kathmandu. …
— Everest brawl: climbers fight on famous mountain (2013-Apr-29) [SMH]
Not the type of story that you want to see coming from this year’s Everest expeditions, but this has been brewing for some time.
The details that I can determine:
It would appear that the initial roped route was realigned after spending a day roping to an impasse;
…After 4 hours of climbing and fixing 300 meters I reached an impasse. There was a huge crevasse looming in front of the route. The crack was 60 ft across and 150 ft deep. The route had come to a dead end. I called back to Rory and Damian that the route was a dead end. We would have to send every one back down and clean the ropes and ice screws. We had just wasted a day in our efforts. As the realization set in we were more than a bit disappointed. Rory and I removed the screws and rappelled the face meeting Damian below. The Sherpas just ran down and left us to fend for ourselves and so we coiled 400 meters of rope, collected the equipment and filled our packs with 50 lbs of gear and rope to bring back down.
We took a short break to eat and drink and rejuvenate ourselves. The reason we had chosen this line for the route was due to the multiple injuries on the “regular” route up the Lhotse Face last year. After several injuries last year, Damian, 7 others and I found this safer route last May, 2012 and we hoped to use the same line again. It was unfortunately not to be.
When we arrived to Camp 2 there was a lot of grumbling from the Sherpa crew that we had wasted a day. They had wanted to fix the lines to Camp 3 themselves without the “white eyes” or mikaru as the foreigners are known. …
— A Series of Unfortunate Events (2013-Apr-30) [Chad Kellogg Everest 2013]
The next day Ueli Steck, Simone Moro, and Jonathan Griffith climb to C3 using an alpine style (not using the fixed ropes), it would appear that the Russian Lhotse team.
At C3 all hell breaks loose when the European climber cross the belay to get to their tent;
It was a cold and windy day… we don’t represent much business for the Sherpa. And seeing 3 alpinists climb unroped for an hour 50/100m to the right of the fixed ropes might have made them nervous (jealousy? Who knows). In any case none of us bragged or provoked anyone. When we crossed the ropes things degenerated. We told them we’d help fix the ropes if they wanted us to, considering that conditions were harsh. They did nothing but shout and threaten, and Ueli and I fixed another 260 meters of rope for them and for everyone else.
— Everest, interview with Simone Moro after the attack at 7200m (2013-Apr-29) [Planet Mountain]
STECK: We were going up to sleep at Camp 3, where we already had a tent. There were lots of people going up to the face to walk a little bit. We met one guide—I forget his name—and he said the Sherpas were fixing ropes up there. I told him that we wanted to go up and sleep and we wouldn’t touch their lines. He said, OK, just make sure you don’t get in the way of them. I understand that, because it can be very dangerous if someone hangs on a rope while you’re fixing it. This has happened many times before. But we wouldn’t be touching their ropes or interfering in any way. That’s why we decided to go.
— Brawl On Everest: Ueli Steck’s Story (2013-May-02) [Outdoor Magazine]
Once Steck, Moro, and Griffith drop back to C2, the situation gets dangerous;
Somebody went to go get Simone and brought him back to the tent, because the Sherpas wanted him to apologize. Jonathan was hiding behind a rock. When Simone got there, they immediately punched him, and then someone pushed him back into the tent. They then wanted him to come out on his knees, which he did, saying, “Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!” Then they started kicking his face and someone tried to stab him with a pen knife. They used rocks to hit us, crampons even. I tell you, they tried to kill us.
Simone got back into the tent again and you could hear them saying that we weren’t supposed to be up there, that we didn’t have a permit for Lhotse. But we did. They tried to find a lot of small things to cause us trouble. They said we had one hour to pack up and leave, and that we should not come back to the West Face, West Ridge, or Lhotse. They said that if we weren’t gone in an hour, they were going to kill all three of us. That was the worst thing.
— Brawl On Everest: Ueli Steck’s Story (2013-May-02) [Outdoor Magazine]
Griffith said that without the bravery of half a dozen other climbers at Camp 2, he and his two partners – the Swiss alpinist Ueli Steck and the Italian Simone Moro – would have been killed in the incident on Saturday. He praised the American climber Melissa Arnot, the only woman to have climbed Everest four times, who warned them an attack was imminent.
He said: “Melissa was a real heroine. She saved Ueli’s life. Without her, he’d be dead. She explained to us in our tent that there was a big mob out looking for us. She said something terrible must have happened. We explained that words had been exchanged but that was it. She stepped out of the tent for a moment and then shouted: ‘They’re coming, get out of here.'”
— Everest climbers abandon ascent after attack by scores of angry Sherpas (2013-Apr-30) [The Guardian]
Melissa Arnot does not wish to recount the events; she does appear to have shown a brave and diplomatic approach that probably saved the climbers lives.
So what else is playing out here? Are we seeing professional jealousy from a young inexperienced Sherpa? Are the commercial expeditions pushing out non-guided and independent climbers? Is commercialism and the vast amounts of money involved in the expeditions causing issues?
It’s not about competition but acceptance. We never interfered with the rope fixing – we just exchanged words with the Sherpas when we crossed their line to our tent. Does that validate us almost being killed in C2? There is no reason to use violence, never, never, never!
— ExWeb interview with Simone Moro: “Garrett Madison’s report is completely false” (2013-May-03) [ExplorersWeb]
There are very bad signs that some of the major expeditions are using this to wedge a ‘my way or the highway’ approach, with all climbers being forced to use their fixed rope highways. This is not good for climbing.
As a final comment. A very influential character (sorry no names right now) has asked the Ministry of Tourism to have written on every permit that climbers are not allowed to climb before the fixing team. If this happens it means the only way you can climb Everest is by climbing in a nice big track and on fixed lines with tons of people. It also means that any teams who want to climb something (in alpine style) apart from the Normal Route will not be able to acclimatise in advance before their ascent. It is insane, but it shows the attitude towards this mountain.
— Everest Update: A Letter From Jon Griffith (2013-Apr-30) [UK Climbimng]
… The meeting concluded with the nomination of fixing Sherpas (the best available) and the suitable dates to complete the work. It was also agreed at the meeting by all the expedition leaders that nobody would be climbing on the route on these dates except the fixing team. That while these young men were working to fix the route for all expeditions at base camp, no expedition would disrupt or create a distraction for them. Unfortunately, Simone Moro did not attend this meeting, and might not have been aware that this protocol is an unwritten rule on Everest. …
— Berg Adventures
As we saw back in 2006, many of the old climbing ethics have been replaced with crass commercialism – perhaps 2013 will reveal a further decline in the same direction?
“Be kind whenever possible, it is always possible”
— Dalai Lama