Fight on Mount Everest
From a collection of media outlets, I have pieced together an aggregation of the story. I believe that the fifth and sixth reports are perhaps the most objective accounts written by onsite mountaineers and observers.
Initial News Report
(Press Release 4/28/2013) by AFP
KATHMANDU — 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 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. The other client, an Italian, remained at Everest Base Camp and may still try to summit the 8,848-metre (29,029-foot) peak. Sitaram Karki, the chief district officer in Solukhumbu, the region where Everest stands, told AFP the police were conducting an investigation, but the details were still unclear. "There are communication issues high on the mountain, but we have received the reports of a fight and deployed our team to investigate the incident," Karki said. More than 3,000 people have climbed Everest, which straddles Nepal and China, since it was first conquered by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953. Every year hundreds more set out in April to attempt the climb.
At around 8 am on April 27, 2013 Simone Moro, Ueli Steck and Jonathan Griffith left Camp 2 to reach a tent at around 7200m (lower Camp 3) on the Lhotse Face of Mount Everest. A team of high altitude sherpas were ‘fixing’ the Lhotse face and the climbers were asked to not touch the fixed ropes they were establishing. As such the trio climbed about 50m away and to the side of the Sherpa team to avoid disturbing them in their work.
It should be noted that all three climbers have extensive climbing experience all over the world and were very aware of the work being carried out by the Sherpas and the respect given to them for it.
When the three climbers reached the height of their already established tent, they traversed across the snow and were forced to step over the lines of the Sherpas to reach their tent about 20 meters to the side. The climbers chose to step across the lines at a belay stance where 4 other sherpas were attached to the ice face whilst their lead climber continued to fix the line above. Stepping over the lines does not interfere in any way with the work being carried out. The climbers were soloing and not using ropes so there was no rope tangling either. In addition by passing beneath the lead climber no ice or snow could be knocked down on him.
Jonathan Griffith was in the lead at this point and after crossing the rope and traversing another 15 meters on a snow ramp Ueli Steck followed. At the point where Ueli Steck stepped over the rope the lead climber noticed the climbers below and began shouting and banging the ice with his axe erratically. Still shouting down at the climbers, he fixed his rope and abseiled down to the belay stance.
As Ueli was soloing and therefore not attached to a rope it was natural that he should hold his hands up to take the impact of the force arriving on him from the lead climber abseiling right on to him. This prompted the lead climber to accuse Ueli Steck of ‘touching him’. In between hitting the ice with all his force and screaming at Ueli Steck ‘why you touch me’ he said that they had kicked ice down on them and injured a Sherpa. Seeing as the trio were climbing a completely independent line and entirely on snow this is highly unlikely.
Ueli Steck tried to help calm the situation by offering to help fix the lines up to Camp 3 but this only made matters worse. Simone Moro then joined the team and the lead climber turned on him wielding his ice axe in his direction. Simone swore at the lead climber as is the natural reaction when faced with this aggression. No amount of talking would calm the lead Sherpa down and as a final act of defiance he ordered his whole team of 17 Sherpas off the Lhotse Face and back to Camp 2. There was no reason to descend off the mountain because of the three climbers. They had not touched or interfered with the Sherpa’s work. To help smooth things over Ueli Steck fixed a further 260m of rope to Camp 3.
By the time the climbers descended back to Camp 2 some 100 Sherpas had grouped together and attacked the three climbers. They became instantly aggressive and not only punched and kicked the climbers, but threw many rocks as well. A small group of Westerners acted as a buffer between the out of control mob and the climbers, and they owe their lives to these brave and selfless people.
Nevertheless all three climbers were attacked as well as many of the Westerners who were trying to calm the situation down. The climbers were told that by that night one of them would be dead and the other two they would see to later. After about 50 minutes the crowd had calmed down and the climbers, who had been pushed away and told to hide, had regrouped and were told that if they weren’t gone in one hour that they would all be killed.
The climbers packed the bare essentials and made a circuitous route back down to the base of Mount Everest in heavily crevassed terrain with no rope on, feeling that given the current situation this was the safest place to be.
The Sherpas said that the reason they attacked the climbers was because they had knocked ice down on a Sherpa below. As it stands no Sherpa has come forward to show any injury. Furthermore on an ice face getting hit by chunks of ice is a very natural occurrence. The climbers believe that the lead Sherpa was tired and cold and felt that his pride had been damaged as the three climbers were moving unroped and much faster to the side of him. Whatever the reason may be, there is no reason to instigate vigilante rule and to try and kill three visiting climbers.
The Nepalese authorities have taken the matter very seriously as have commercial teams on the mountain. At the moment the 3 ring leaders have been taken off the mountain and the Police, Ministry of Tourism and the head of the Sherpa Association are investigating.
The three climbers would like to extend a huge thank you to all those who saved their lives at Camp 2 and to those who are now taking over the investigation.”
website / wiki
Renowned Swiss climber Ueli Steck - speaking to swissinfo.ch at Everest Base Camp - says he will not return to Everest, after Sherpas attacked him and his two climbing companions. “My trust is gone. I could not go back to this mountain,” an emotionally shaken Steck said at Base Camp on Tuesday. In the interview, the Swiss mountaineer, best known for his speed climbing in the Alps and Himalaya, explains that the incident high on the world’s tallest mountain on Sunday was an expression of anger that had been growing for years. A “rift between two worlds”, as he describes it.
Steck also admits that his team’s actions after the first altercation with the rope-fixing Sherpas above Camp 2 may have provoked the local guides.
swissinfo: What exactly happened up there? Why did you get attacked?
Ueli Steck: Well, this is an answer I am still looking for. I don’t think it was a personal problem towards our team but a long-term problem that has been growing in Nepal recently. I guess we were just at the wrong place at the wrong time. It started off as a verbal fight on the mountain, just below Camp 3 and when we came back to Camp 2 there were about 100 Sherpas trying to attack us.
swissinfo: According to the media and the Sherpas, you were also inconsiderate having climbed ahead of them while they were fixing the ropes. Do you think this was a problem?
Steck: No, I don’t think it was a problem up there. We know they were fixing the lines and we were not touching their lines and we did not interfere. They were fixing the ropes for the commercial expeditions and not for us because we don’t need it. Of course, we have to leave space for everyone on the mountain. So we went 50m to the left so we would not disturb them and we were really careful not to knock any ice down. We did not disturb them at all. I think the fact that we were going up there made them angry because they were thinking that if they [the Sherpas] are on the mountain, nobody else can be on the mountain and that was the big problem. Everest incident
On April 28, Swiss climber Ueli Steck, together with Italian mountaineer Simone Moro and British photographer John Griffith, were attacked by dozens of Sherpas at Camp 2 at 6,400m on Mount Everest.
The assault happened a few hours after the three climbers had overtaken the rope fixing Sherpas who were on their way up to Camp 3 at 7,300m to prepare the route for commercial expeditions.
The three European climbers have now called off their attempt to scale Mount Everest.
swissinfo: Did you communicate with them while you were on the mountain? Or did you even overtake them on the Lhotse Face? Maybe they didn't like that.
Steck: They had been fixing the whole morning and we overtook them in about one hour. I can understand that this creates some problems or jealousy. But we certainly had no effect on their work at all.
swissinfo: What happened when you got back down to Camp 2?
Steck: First of all, at Camp 3 we had to traverse to our tent at around 7,100m and at that moment we had to cross them, however, we did so very carefully. As soon as we reached the fixing point (belay) they were just shouting at us and there was no point in having a discussion. They were very upset. They dropped the loads and said they were done with fixing and went down. So we felt very bad for the commercial expeditions as these guys were working for them and they should finish the job and fix all the way to Camp 3. So we decided to finish the job and fix the rest of the way.
Even though we wanted to stay at Camp 3 to acclimatise that night we decided to go to Camp 2 to solve this problem and speak to them. swissinfo: How did the Sherpas feel about you finishing their job? Maybe that upset them?
Steck: In hindsight I think it probably upset them but at the moment we felt guilty for being responsible for them having stopped their work for commercial expeditions. That is why we finished their work. But maybe it made things worse. So we went down to Camp 2 and whatever happened there was unacceptable. There was no reason to try and kill three people – never anywhere in life or anywhere on the mountain.
swissinfo: Did they seriously threaten to kill you?
Steck: This is what they said. The situation got out of control and nobody had any power to stop them. It was just a mob of 100 people hitting us with rocks and they threatened to kill us.
swissinfo: How did you protect yourself?
Steck: The female American climber, Melissa Arnot, saved my life. She intervened when I got hit because there is no point in fighting back if you have 100 people against you. The only thing you can do is take the beating. Simone and Jonathan managed to run away but I was not fast enough (I am getting slow and old). I was in a tent and I was alone. The discussion outside the tent went on for about one hour and Melissa and Greg of IMG [International Mountain Guides] tried to calm them down but all I could hear was them shouting “Give us the guy. We will kill him first and then the other two”. Somehow they managed to calm them down. Simone had to apologise on his knees for his bad words on the mountain. So they gave us one hour to leave the mountain and told us never to come back again.
swissinfo: Did you abandon your expedition because the Sherpas told you to leave or was this whole incident reason enough for you to leave?
Steck: If there are 100 people telling you that they are going to kill you and if among these 100 people there are a few you summited Everest together with last year and they were friends, it is hard to stay. I am so disappointed and my trust is gone. I could not go back to this mountain, even though everyone says that this would not happen again. I could not go back. Who can assure me that the angry mob is not cutting my rope or burning my tent? Tackling Everest
swissinfo: You have been coming to Nepal for many years and you have built up a good relationship with the Sherpas. Is all the trust gone?
Steck: No, I still have good friends. There are a lot of emotions inside me and I cannot put them all inside the same pot. But a lot is happening in this pot and there are a lot of people in there who I can no longer trust.
swissinfo: It always takes two to tango! Are you sure you did not provoke them?
Steck: It is a problem. The Sherpas have worked here for many years and they are the rich people in Nepal, and they have gained a lot of power. But on the other hand they see all these Westerners making all that money. And there is a huge gap between them and the Westerners. What happened up there is the display of anger that has been growing for years. It is the rift between two worlds and the jealousy has grown over years.
swissinfo: You had a good project together with Simone Moro. Maybe even a dream. How are you feeling about leaving the mountain without fulfilling this dream?
Steck: There are a lot of feelings right now going on inside me. First of all, I am really happy to be alive. But of course, I feel bad. They took away our dream. We are a strong team; the conditions on the mountain are perfect and I am 99 per cent sure that we would have been successful and that hurts me a lot. But I simply cannot go back to the mountain, so the whole Sherpa community has just destroyed my dream.
swissinfo: On Monday, there was a ceremony, or maybe even a peace deal, between your team and the Sherpas. Do you believe that the hatchet has been buried?
Steck: To be completely honest, I think this ‘ceremony’ calmed down the situation but it certainly did not solve the problem. This ‘peace deal’ was just a pretext for everyone to get out of the situation but for me it was just sweet talk. I don’t think it solved any problems. We are in Nepal and we have to play by their rules but if you think about how they tried to solve something like this, it is actually unbelievable.
swissinfo: Has this destroyed your faith in Himalayan climbing?
Steck: Definitely. For me this is an experience that I will never forget. I have changed my opinion about Mount Everest and about the Everest region, the Khumbu valley. I really loved the Khumbu valley. I have come here ten times but now I don’t feel like coming back. In life it is really easy and you can choose what you want to do. So I don’t have to come back here. There are so many other mountains around and I don’t have to play their game. I think there are a lot of good people around and there are a lot of good mountains around. Luckily, I have summited Mount Everest without supplementary oxygen and now for me it is not really necessary to come back. It is a waste of time to do things you are not 100 percent satisfied with.
swissinfo: What do your sponsors say about this situation? Have they shown understanding?
Steck: Of course they understand but on the other hand we are living in the Western world and we don’t get anything for free. The sponsors want to benefit from me. And now, all three of us have to deal with financial disaster. We spent a lot of money and even if we got it from our sponsors, they want something in return and now we have to deal with this. On the one hand I have to get over my bad feelings and disappointment, but on the other hand the world keeps on spinning and I have to keep going.
swissinfo: Yes, you have to keep going. So what’s next?
Steck: I think I will spend some time in the Alps, where I can climb freely and don’t have to be worried that someone might hit me with a rock. I think that I need to calm down, figure out what is happening here in Nepal and make decisions about what I want to do. But all this takes time.
We, at Base Camp, have been following the posts made and thank you for your restraint. I realise that it is a one sided argument but this is a very complicated situation. As people have mentioned the Sherpas have a long history of very kind, hard working, pacifists. It is my first time to Nepal but Ueli and Simone have been here for many years. Ueli for example climbed Everest last year with Sherpa Tenji as a climbing partner not as a Sherpa. Sherpa Tenji was booted out from a commercial expedition last year, as it was decided that he wasn't needed, and Ueli offered to climb together with him as Tenji's aim had always been to summit Everest without oxygen. I am also glad to say that Sherpa Tenji was part of our team this year. Simone has done 43 trips to Nepal and his relationship with Sherpas stretches way back. If you talk to Sherpas at Base Camp they having nothing but good things to say about him. He has a rescue helicopter out here and even offers free rescue service to all Sherpas and Porters on the mountain. So I think both Ueli and Simone have a long history of respect and friendship with the Sherpas.
The Press Release is, hand on heart, exactly what happened on the day. I wrote it. But as many have noted the reaction was not because of our actions but because of a deeper rooted problem. I realise that when you see the reaction from the Sherpas that it is natural to think that we did something terrible that we are not saying, but honestly this was not the case. The only reason given from the lead Sherpa was that we knocked ice down but I honestly cannot imagine this happened, the fact that no Sherpa has come forward with any injuries does back us up some what. I accept that our presence on the mountain may have stressed the Sherpas out but statements that we were told not to climb that day are total fabrications. We were asked by a IMG guide to not clip in to the ropes and naturally we did not do so. We kept far away from them when ascending - the Lhotse Face is immense. Please understand that any anonymous eyewitness reports from Camp 2 are ludicrous. The fact that they are anonymous and most importantly that Camp 2 is located miles away from the Lhotse Face makes any 'eyewitness' report a bit unrealistic (I'm a photographer and even my most powerful lenses wouldn't let me see that well). The fact that this anonymous source said we then walked back through Camp is proof of the lies as there was no chance we walked back through Camp. We were shitting ourselves, the idea of walking through Camp was suicidal. We tracked straight over towards Nuptse and headed down an unbelievably crevassed glacier with no tracks and no ropes. At times we were crawling. As dangerous as this was it actually seemed like a haven of safety compared to Camp 2.
I understand that we will all come out of this looking bad. It is natural. But in the end everyone looks bad from this incident. The few bad apples reflect very badly on the Sherpa community and they are very aware of this. The ring leaders are actually about 30 metres away from our camp. There are no police here. But we feel safe because the whole Nepalese Community at Base Camp are outraged by what happened and are acting as the local police. However this is a hugely delicate and complicated problem. We had a ceremony yesterday where we all talked publicly about what happened and that the reaction we incurred from the Sherpas was something that the Commercial Teams and the Everest Community as a whole had to deal with. It was not entirely due to our actions. We were the tip of the iceberg and we have talked with the ring leader about this. As such we are not taking legal action but leaving it in the hands of the community to find a suitable 'disciplinary action' (as they call it). They see this as a very major underlying problem and something that has to be dealt with before it happens again. Simply throwing them in jail will cause a riot, it is important to find the right balance where the Sherpas are able to voice their problems and concerns to the community and the old 'respect' between client and Sherpa and vice versa is re-established. For the moment the Sherpas feel used and that they are not treated with respect by their Western clients.
For us our trip is over. The Nepalese were hoping we would all shake hands and continue with our trip and this will all be swept under the carpet. We didn't really see this as reality. It was the most harrowing experience of our lives and there is no way we feel safe up the mountain anymore. Ueli is a man I have known and climbed with for many years. I have never seen him like this before, and this is a man who doesn't live life in the safety zone. He has lost all trust in the Sherpa community and has barely slept since the incident. I can see in him that part of him has been destroyed and will take a long time to heal.
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.
If any of the above is a bit confusing then please realise that things are pretty manic right now. I've slept very little in the last few days. But I felt it was important to write and answer some of the questions raised by your comments.
website / wiki
I cannot recount the events of this past week on Everest, nor do I want to. I understand that people want to hear the story and know the details, but, honestly, the details are sad and they are in the past. They cannot be changed. Everyone will have their version of what happened and why it happened. I, too, have my own version. I came here to climb Mt. Everest. I came here for the challenge, adventure and type of friendship that has become a mark of this place for me. On this expedition, I have had some of the best times of my life, laughing into the late hours with friends who were supporting each other’s goals. I have had some of the worst times — standing in front of those same friends to protect them from unexplainable violence and anger. Something shifted the balance for a moment. My only hope is that it shifts back quickly, and everyone can resume their jobs, their passion and their goal of climbing. I am resting now, both my body and my mind, in hopes that I can resume the reason I came here. I am thankful for the good moments that have occurred this year. I am sad for the events of the last week. I am hopeful that the adventure ahead will be one of collaboration, support and rebuilding the relationship of trust between everyone who has chosen to be here.
I want to say that there were four or five men responsible for this unfortunate incident at Camp 2. Since I do not know their names I have used the name “Sherpas” to represent the mob of men rallied against Ueli Steck, Simone Moro and Jonathan Griffith. However, I do not want to misrepresent the Sherpa community that I have grown to love over the past 15 years of traveling to Nepal and sharing in adventures with the Sherpa people. This is the one exception to what I have found to be a very happy and caring people, full of generosity and kindness. I will work harder to reestablish connections with my Sherpa friends and work to repair whatever sense of connection has been lost between those who call Nepal home and those of us who have just come to experience the Himalayas.
At 5:15 am on April 26th, we collected at the IMG camp at 21,500 feet and added two Sherpas and 400 meters of rope. The plan was to fix ropes all the way up to Camp 3, via the 1953 route.
We set out up to the base of the Lhotse Face, reaching the technical terrain after 2 1/2 hours. I stripped off my down suit as the sun was approaching, then donned my ice screws and tied into the static 10mm rope. I fixed the first 40 meters and set off with 60 meters of rope. Damian Benegas and I were sure that the route would “go,” so Damian called up the rest of the Sherpas to bring more rope.
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 feet across and 150 feet deep. The route had come to a dead end. I called back to Rory Stark 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 pounds 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, seven 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. We came to find out that the fixing of the lines is a matter of national pride for the Sherpas. We stopped in at IMG for a few cups of juice and to talk with the guides and staff. We explained what we had tried and the insurmountable obstacles that we had run into. They congratulated us on our effort and we resigned to take a rest day and let the 18 Sherpa crew fix the lines up to Camp 3. I observed that tensions amongst the Sherpas line fixing crew were high.
We all were tired as we rolled back into the Benegas Brothers Camp. We had put in 9 ½ hours of effort resulting in no progress on the route and disgruntled Sherpa staff in other camps. We discussed the days’ events over dinner and confirmed our plans to rest a day and then carry a load up to Camp 3 on the 28th. I did not have the pleasure of seeing the full moon, but we were all feeling the effects I believe.
The next morning dawned clear and a bit windy. Rory, Damian and I rested while the two members took a walk with Horacio to the base of the Lhotse Face. I watched the fixing teams begin stringing two lines up the face. One was the “up” line and the other the “down” line for traffic. I laid inside the dome tent protecting my face from the harsh glare of the sun at 21,500 feet. We spent the morning laughing and hydrating. Two hours later I noticed a team out on the snow to the left of the fixing team. “Who is that?” I wondered. It turned out to be Ueli Steck, Simone Moro and Jonathan Griffith, the cameraman. They were climbing up to establish Camp 3 without disturbing the fixing team.
I went and met with Ueli, Simone, Melissa Arnot and Jonathan to get the facts correct:
Just below Camp 3, they returned to the original line and crossed the fixed ropes carefully. Ueli made certain that Jon did not dislodge any ice and that none of the team touched the fixed lines. Apparently a confrontation began at that moment. The fixing team accused them of knocking ice down on the fixing team of Sherpas below. One Sherpa began to wave an ice ax at Simone and Simone cursed at the Sherpa offending him further. The fixing team abandoned the fixing effort for the day and all 18 of them descended to Camp 2.
Worried that they might be to blame for the ropes not reaching Camp 3 that day, Ueli decided to fix all of the cached rope up to Camp 3 another 250 meters above. Afterward, the team of three descended back to Camp 2.
Melissa told me that she came out of her tent and saw a large group of Sherpas, between 35 and 75 men, headed for the encampment of Simone, Jonathan and Ueli. She was closer than the mob so she ran to the tent and told them to make a run for the glacier and hide. Simone and Jonathan made it out to the glacier while Ueli stayed behind.
Ueli said that he was confronted by the mob and was immediately hit in the head by a fist followed by a rock to the head. Melissa pushed Ueli into the kitchen tent to protect him from the mob. The Sherpa men would not hit a woman so she was the buffer of protection from the very angry mob. Since it was too hard to figure out what was happening to Simone and Jonathan, Melissa sent a Sherpa from Simone’s camp to get he and Jonathan from the glacier. They were secretly ushered into the same kitchen tent as Ueli and buffered from the mob by Melissa and the head of Camp 2 for IMG. The men promised that if Simone came out on his knees and begged for forgiveness he would not be hurt. Simone tried to get out of the tent on his knees when he was beaten and forced back inside. A while later Melissa asked Simone to get back on his knees outside the tent and ask for forgiveness again. She had been assured by the instigators that he would not be hurt. So Simone got on his knees to ask for forgiveness and was kicked under the chin, someone tried to stab him with a pen knife, but fortunately the knife hit him in the padded belt of his backpack.
Simone retreated inside the tent again. Marty Schmidt recalled when I talked with him at Camp 2 that he saw a man getting ready to bring a large rock down on Simone’s head to kill him. Marty grabbed the rock and the man’s arm and shouted “no, no violence.” For his intervention he received a rock to the head himself. Marty was still wearing the bandage on his head when I spoke with him.
Eventually, the crowd of angry men dispersed. Swearing that if Simone, Jonathan and Ueli were still there in an hour they would come back and kill the three of them. Simone, Jonathan and Ueli left by the main glacier behind camp and hidden from view. They did not even have a rope to protect them from the crevasses that lurk there as an ever-present danger. Beat up but mobile, the trio made their way down from Camp 2 to 1 and through the ice-fall back to Base Camp.
It is hard to believe that this whole incident appeared to have started from ice supposedly being knocked down on some Sherpas below by three European climbers. Simone and Ueli were accused of climbing above Camp 1 without a permit. In fact, Jonathan had a permit for the regular route, Simone and Ueli had a permit for the West Ridge and a Lhotse permit so all were within their rights to go to Camp 3. Things get very volatile when so many people are upset.
Rory, Damian and I were sitting in the group tent as the rumors began to filter into our camp. We heard every possible distortion of the tale. When we tried to go up to the IMG camp and talk to Greg we were dissuaded by a large group of Sherpa men standing outside the camp. So we went over and talked with Dave Hahn and Seth Waterfall of RMI. The tone was one of sadness about the assault that had occurred on our friends and the division that seemed to have transpired between the Sherpas and the climbers.
After a couple of hours, about 5 p.m., Rory and I went up to talk with Greg again and take the pulse of the situation. We asked Greg his opinion about going up to Camp 3 the next day. He said that given the current situation, it would be better to go down to Base Camp and let things get sorted out and cool down for a few days.
Plans are subject to change for all sorts of reasons. So we decided that Greg’s assessment of the situation was the most accurate and that we would cut our progress a bit in order to accommodate the situation. All the folks in the group tent talked the situation out until it was time for bed, but we were all a bit uneasy. The tension in the air was palpable.
The next morning everyone woke up early, packed their tents and bags and headed down. Rory and I were respectful to all the Sherpa men and groups we encountered. We made our way back to Base Camp in 2 ½ hours and were glad to be received by our friendly crew. Now we would lay low and see how the drama played out.
We were all anxious to see if justice would be served to the handful of folks that had instigated the assault of at least four Westerners and one Sherpa. I felt that the companies that employed the men responsible should at the very least fire the men and get them off the mountain so the situation could not repeat itself.
I am not going to comment on why I think this happened. That would be just opinion and promote sensationalism instead of the facts. The fallout is as of yet still occurring. I am here to climb and that is what I still intend to do. On May 2nd, Rory and I will head up to Camp 2 for our second rotation. We intend to stay on the mountain for four nights and touch the top of the Yellow Band at 25,300 feet. I am sure things will still continue to evolve, and I hope it is for the better.
website / wiki
As this story has emerged in the media it has become clear that the Sherpas have not been given a voice. The press releases, the blogging, and reports from the European climbers have dominated the headlines. Meanwhile, the Sherpa are quietly continuing to fix the rope and continue their work at nearly 8,000 meters on Everest. These Sherpa help realize the dream of many western climbers and will continue to be honored and respected by the foreign climbers who climb with them on Everest.
I have pieced together an objective version of events different from what is currently in the media headlines. These details are directly from what I heard on the radio on April 27, my discussions with many people in base camp over the last two days including expedition leaders, western guides, and clients who were at Camp 2 during this incident, and Sirdars (head Sherpa) who directly supervise the fixing team.
All expedition leaders and Sherpa Sirdars were invited and attended a meeting in Everest Base Camp to discuss the rope fixing strategy for this season on Everest. At this meeting everyone had a chance to suggest the best strategy and route to safely climb the mountain. 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.
Over the next few days all the teams at base camp pitched in and Sherpas carried over 50 loads through the Khumbu Icefall to Camp II. The fixing started on April 26: For two days the Sherpa were scouting the best route on the Lhotse face, and by April 27 they were less than an hour from reaching Camp II.
The three European climbers set out the morning of April 27 heading for the Lhotse Face. After suggestions from both guides and Sherpa at Camp II and below the Lhotse Face to turn around (because fixing the Lhotse Face demands strict concentration), the three climbers continued on to the Lhotse Face moving up and to the left of the fixing route. The three climbers moved alpine style up the Lhotse Face and were headed towards their camp (just below Camp III on the Lhotse Face).
At this time the Sherpa fixing team was working on the Lhotse Face and had reached one of the steeper and more exposed areas. The temperature was dropping and the winds were picking up. As the fixing team was moving through a steeper section of the Lhotse Face, the three European climbers met with the fixing team. The fixing team alerted the three climbers to not touch or cross the rope. This is a high intensity environment where people’s instincts are at a heightened state. The lead fixing Sherpa spoke with one of the three climbers, at which point physical contact was made. At that point Simone came in verbal contact with a number of the fixing team who had now congregated at one of the anchors to secure themselves from sliding down the face.
Simone began to shout, many of the words in Nepali language, and many of the words were inflammatory. At this point the fixing team made the correct decision to drop their loads of rope and hardware, attaching them to the installed line, and to descend without any further interaction or confrontation with the three climbers. The fixing team descended to Camp II and went to their respective camps as a number of expedition teams work together to fix the route on Everest. As the fixing team descended to Camp II, Simone radioed down requesting to know what the Sherpa were talking about. At one point Simone stated over open radio frequency—fixing frequency, tuned in by all the fixing teams and anyone listening on the mountain—that if the Sherpa had a problem he could come down to Camp II soon and “f---ing fight”.
As Simone returned back to Camp II he again spoke over the fixing frequency a demand to speak with the fixing team comprised of 16 Sherpa (of eight different teams) back at Camp II. He explained that he would meet them at one of the expedition camps. When he arrived in Camp II he went to his tent. At this pointm, some western guides went to Simone’s camp to explain that he should apologize for the situation his team created during a very dangerous workday.
As the western guides spoke to Simone, Sherpas from many different teams congregated as a result of his radio call from the Lhotse face and wanted to speak with Simone and get an apology, and to explain to him how difficult their job had been that day. The Sherpas who were together felt that Simone’s words and interactions were both hurtful to the individuals, as well as grave and serious insults to the entire Sherpa community. As the Sherpas approached Simone’s camp, tensions were high and they wanted to have a discussion with an already angered Simone. Then Simone came out to talk and both sides approached each other in loud discussion, at which point a careless western climber who had not been involved up on the Lhotse face arrived and entangled physically with a Sherpa. This was the ignition for what ensued next.
It is safe to say that the Sherpa thought this western climber was part of Simone’s team and had initiated a dangerous confrontation. At this point the Sherpas felt as if they needed to defend themselves as they had just seen one of their colleagues attacked. The tense situation ignited and a brawl ensued.
The brawl was stopped by a group of western climbers and Sherpas working together. Simone’s team was protected by both a Sherpa group and a few western climbers and guides. As the group separated, Simone asked to apologize for his actions. After things calmed down, Simone’s team descended to Base Camp.
The following day, April 28, was peaceful.
To Simone’s credit, he did not want to leave Everest until he had a chance to make peace with the furious Sherpas. The Sherpas met in Base Camp and discussed peacefully the events of the fixing day (April 27), and both parties recognized the errors in what they said and did, and apologized to each other. Simone reiterated his respect for the Sherpas and for the work they do, and both sides agreed to work together in the future to make sure something like this never happens again.
The Sherpa community understands this unfortunate and avoidable situation was unacceptable. The Sirdars have committed to educate these hard-working young men about handling the stresses of a very intense job.
In climbing the Nepalese side of Mt. Everest, all the teams collaborate in working together to ultimately achieve a mutual goal, to reach the top safely, and the Sherpa are a major part of this goal. The first summit of Everest in 1953 was made by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, a foreigner and a Nepalese Sherpa. The first American ascent in 1963 was Jim Whittaker and Nawang Gombu Sherpa, also a foreigner and a Sherpa.
I sincerely hope that this incident does not damage how the Sherpas perceive the foreigners who come to climb on their mountain. We aim to uphold the spirit of climbing together to accomplish our common goals and to respect one another throughout our mountaineering endeavors.
Major Sunilsingh Rathor, Chief of Nepal Army
Today, on 2070 Bhaishak 16 (April 29, 2013) at Everest base camp at SPCC office, with the presence of the Chief of Nepal Army team leader, Major Sunilsingh Rathor and the following attended personnels agreed to do the following decisions regarding the arguments between the two groups on April 27 while fixing ropes between camp 2 & camp 3.
1. On April 27 2013, above Everest Base Camp, at Camp 2 and Camp 3 an agreement arose between foreign climbers and Nepali climbers and the situation was discussed today at this meeting. Both parties have realized their errors and apologized to each other in front of those present. Furthermore, both parties agreed to help each other in the future to make successful each others goals. It has also been decided that this issue will not be raised again.
2. All those present agreed and committed that such activities must never be repeated by anyone in mountaineering and in the tourism sector. If any party is dissatisfied with the actions of another party, they commit not to go into conflict or use violence against the other party. Instead they commit to report the actions to the government representatives or releventent government recognized association present at the base camps, to come to an amicable solution between the parties.