The story of the conflict that broke out on Everest this past weekend continues to dominate the news in the world adventure today. While I know many of us are ready to put the event behind us and move on, it is clear that it was an ugly incident no matter how you cut it. It is also important to note that there are always multiple sides to the story as well. In order to be fair and try to provide as much info as possible, I wanted to share a couple more nuggets of information about the clash between the three European climbers and the Sherpas.
First up, Ueli Steck has given an interview to SwissInfo.ch in which he shares a lot of information about what happened, at least from his perspective. The gist of what went down is already out there, so I won’t recount the whole tale once again, suffice as to say it is important to hear it from Ueli himself. He fills in some important details, such as when he, Simone and Jon were climbing up the Lhotse Face beside the Sherpa teams, Ueli claims that there ropes were 50 meters (160 ft) to the left of those the Sherpas were putting into place. That makes it seem highly unlikely that they would have kicked ice or snow down onto the teams working below them. He also says that the team’s intention was to spend the night at Camp 3, but decided they needed to head down to C2 to try to work things out with the Sherpas because they felt bad that the other commercial teams were not getting the ropes fixed. Those are ropes that Ueli says he and his companions didn’t need in the first place, but most everyone else would. He claims that they felt so bad about the situation that they they completed fixing the ropes up to Camp 3, an additional 260 meters by some accounts, for the Sherpas.
The scene of course turned wild when they returned to Camp 2 with as many as 100 Sherpas attacking them. Ueli credits Melissa Arnot with saving his life and helping defuse the situation, and says that Greg Vernovage of IMG also was instrumental in calming things down and ensuring he stayed safe. I suspect there were others involved as well and we’ll hear more stories like this one in the days ahead.
Perhaps saddest of all, Ueli says that he is now done with Everest. It seems the entire situation has spoiled him on Nepal and the Himalaya, and at the moment he says he doesn’t want to come back. Hopefully that is just the heat of the moment speaking and that once he clams down, gets some perspective and has a chance to reflect, he’ll change his mind. We’ll just have to wait and see.
The entire interview is worth a read, so if you have an interest in this topic, give it a look.
As with all things, there are always two sides to the story and that once again seems to be the case with this incident. Alan Arnette has posted a detailed account of the entire affair that was written by Garrett Madsen who is the leader of the Alpine Ascents team. It fills in some more important details that help explain the situation further. For instance, the Sherpas were operating under the assumption that there wouldn’t be any other teams on the Lhotse Face while they fixed ropes up to Camp 3. That was agreed upon by all of the team leaders in a meeting on April 18. Simone Moro wasn’t at that meeting however, so he wasn’t aware of this agreement. Working on the Lhotse Face is incredibly demanding and difficult, so the Sherpas need to concentrate on their efforts. Having another team there was distracting and counter productive to what they were doing.
When the initial confrontation broke out just below C3, Garrett claims that it was Simone who set upon the Sherpas gathered there and began berating them in Nepalese, using foul language and demeaning words. That was the straw that broke the camels back, sending the Sherpas down to C2. Later, Simone reportedly got on the radio and using an open channel called out the Sherpas, even saying they should be ready for a fight. He was steamed and wasn’t letting go of the situation either.
When they descended to C2, a heated debate broke out as to who was in the right and who should apologize to whom. Another Western climber, who had nothing to do with the incident at all, bumbled into a Sherpa, who turned to defend himself. That started the big brawl which created a scene during which Ueli, Simone and Jonathan were punched, kicked and hit with rocks. While it has bee widely reported that a small group of Western climbers helped to defuse the situation, Garrett is also quick to point out that there was a group of Sherpas hat came to the aid of European team too. I think it is important to point that out.
While the situation has not been good for the reputations of any of those involved, I think we can all agree that it is time to start putting it behind us. There is a lot of climbing to be done yet this year and this whole situation is a black eye on Everest and Nepal. Ueli and Jon are reportedly heading to Kathmandu tomorrow and it remains to be seen if Simone will depart as well.
This certainly has been a strange season on the Big Hill and it isn’t over yet.
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