Everest 2013: Dispute Between Climbers And Sherpas Resolved

Everest kalapatthar crop

Yesterday the big news that dominated the headlines for Everest and the mountaineering world in general was the story about the conflict that took place between Simone Moro, Ueli Steck and Jonathan Griffith with the team of Sherpas who were fixing the ropes up the Lhotse Face. I won’t go into details on the subject again, as it has already been rehashed a dozen times, but if you missed the story you can read my full account here.

Obviously this story was a strange one, as you don’t often see conflicts erupting between the climbers and the Sherpas in general, let alone a dispute that turns violent. Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism takes these kinds of affairs very seriously and yesterday they convened a meeting in Everest Base Camp between all of the parties involved to seek a resolution. By all accounts, that meeting went well with both sides apologizing and agreeing to put their differences aside. Government officials took Simone, Ueli and Jon to task for ignoring the Sherpas orders to stay off the ropes and to not climb above them, as that could have put the health of those Sherpas in jeopardy. On the other hand, the Ministry also admonished the Sherpas for their rash behavior that eventually led to a violent attack on the three European climbers.

Both sides signed an agreement taking responsibility for their actions. Alan Arnette published the text of that agreement last night and here is what it had to say:

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.

We’re told that the teams shook hands and parted ways amicably although it is unclear at this time whether or not Simone, Ueli and Jon will continue their expedition. Yesterday I read on the Peak Freaks blog that the three men had “cancelled their climb and have left the mountain.” That led me to update my original story with the news that they had left for home. But other outlets, including Alan and ExWeb are less clear on the matter. It could be that the Simone, Ueli and Jon have gone down the Valley for a rest and will return to resume their climb along a new route in a few days. That would give the Sherpas time to fix the ropes up to the South Col and keep the teams out of each others way while they work.

Update: As I completed this post, some new information has come to light. At least one more outlet is reporting that the team is heading home. According to this story, the three Europeans will head back to Kathmandu via Helicopter tomorrow. Simone is quoted as saying “violence killed our climbing dream.” It looks like the preliminary reports were accurate and the climb is indeed over for this group. Such a shame.

In the stories that came out over the past few days it was reported that several climbers came to the aid of Ueli, Simone and Jon when they were attacked in Camp 2. The names of those who helped diffuse the situation there, and quite possibly saved their lives, have not been given until now. I’m told that three climbers who were instrumental in the affair were Peter Hamor, Horia Colibaseanu and Iustin Ionescu, each of whom is a talented and experienced climber in his own right. We’d be remiss if we didn’t give a tip of the hat to those three men for risking their own lives to assist others. I’m told that none of these three would ever step forward to claim credit for their actions, but had they no intervened, this story might have had a much worse ending.

Lets hope we don’t see a scene like this one on Everest, or any other mountain, for a very long time.

Kraig Becker