Update 2: In mid August 2013, Tashi Sherpa, 30, spoke with reporter Deepak Adhikari explaining what really happened from the Sherpa’s viewpoint. Tashi was on the rope fixing team and at Camp 2. This is the first time we have heard the Sherpas’ version of the incident.
The storyline remains the same as what the professionals reported but Tashi claims the professional climber’s started the fight by kicking ice on them, assaulted them verbally and physically on the Lhotse Face. The fight at Camp 2 spun out of control when a Western guide “assaulted” a Sherpa. Tashi goes on to say there has been years of resentment between the Sherpas and the “whites” but this incident was personal with Moro. Click here for the story
Life goes on at Everest with a few climbers spending the night at Camp 3 on their final rotation before pushing for the summit bid. Many are at Camp 2 or back at EBC preparing for their turn up high.
Remember that we will not see the majority of Western summits until mid May so teams are still focused on acclimatization.
But the fight on the Lhotse Face has had an impact.
Tim Ripple, Peak Freaks, made this comment:
What has gone on up on the mountain yesterday has lowered moral here at EBC. Mountains have no place for egos, you see it time and time again, eventually a price is paid.
Melissa Arnot, cited by Simone Moro as helping defuse the fight made this post on her blog today:
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 have seen reports of 35 westerns leaving the South side. That would be about 10% of the climbers who arrived at EBC earlier this month.
It would be a stretch to connect their departures to the “fight” as many climbers get to Everest, see the Icefall and have immediate second thoughts. That said, it is likely that anyone looking for support to quit would have found it from the conflict up high.
The Sherpa’s Story
I had hoped to never highlight the conflict again, yes; hoping everyone can just move on. While I am not wanting to brush this incident away given the serous nature and impact on climbing in general, I do feel like the acts of a few do not warrant taking away the spotlight on the many. I hope this is the last time I highlight this entire incident.
In my initial report, I tried to piece together what had happened representing both sides. I also reported and linked to Simone Moro’s account of the situation. So I felt it fair to post an email I received representing the Sherpa’s point of view from Garrett Madison who is the long time expedition leader for Alpine Ascents (AAI) who is there. His email started with the following introduction:
I have attached a short piece I wrote today about the fight at camp 2. I fully stand behind this piece, and recognize that I will be taking a position that may be unpopular at this time.
Follows is the email in its entirety:
Fight at Camp 2 on Everest
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 8000 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 27th, my discussions with many people in base camp over the last 2 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.
On April 18th, 2013:
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 2. The fixing started on April 26th, for 2 days the Sherpa were scouting the best route on the Lhotse face and by the 27th they were less than an hour from reaching camp 3.
The 3 European climbers set out the morning of the 27th heading for the Lhotse face. After suggestions from both guides and Sherpa at Camp 2 and below the Lhotse face to turn around, because fixing the Lhotse face demands strict concentration, the 3 climbers continued on to the Lhotse face moving up and to the left of the fixing route. The 3 climbers moved alpine style up the Lhotse face and were headed towards their camp (just below camp 3 on the Lhotse face).
At this time the Sherpa fixing team were working on the Lhotse Face and have reached one of the steeper & 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 3 European climbers met with the fixing team. The fixing team alerted the 3 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 3 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 descend without any further interaction or confrontation with the 3 climbers. The fixing team descended to camp 2 and went to their respective camps as a number of expedition teams work together to fix the route on Mt. Everest. As the fixing team descended to camp 2, 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 2 soon and “f—ing fight”.
As Simone returned back to Camp 2 he again spoke over the fixing frequency a demand to speak with the fixing team comprised of 16 Sherpa (of 8 different teams) back at camp 2. He explained that he would meet them at one of the expedition camps. When he arrived in Camp 2 he went to his tent. At this point 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 Sherpa 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 Sherpa working together. Simone’s team was protected by both a Sherpa group and a few western climbers and guides. As the group separated, Simone requested to apologize for his actions. After things calmed down, Simone’s team descended to base camp. The following day, April 28th, 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 Sherpa met in base camp and discussed peacefully the events of the fixing day (April 27th), 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 of Mt. Everest safely and the Sherpa are a major part of this goal. The first summit of Everest in 1953 was 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.
As I posted yesterday, an agreement was signed at Base Camp to avoid these types of conflicts in the future.
It remains unclear if Moro and team will continue as of this morning (30 April). I have seen multiple conflicting reports and have been unable to get a clear answer from the teams.
I have now confirmed that Ueli Steck and Jon Griffith have left EBC via helicopter.
I hope to focus on the teams climbing the Lhotse Face tomorrow.
Addendum 3 May 2013:
Moro , Steck and Griffith have had multiple media interviews since the incident restating their case that they did nothing to provoke the Sherpas. Moro made this statement to Explorer’s web specifically about Garret Madison’s comments (posted above and on multiple websites)
Simone Moro: I just want to add that Garrett Madison’s report is completely false. He wrote: “…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 2 soon and ‘f—ing fight’.”
This is completely, completely, completely false! I never did such a stupid and provocative radio call, and I have witnesses to confirm it. The report is falsifying facts to justify the tension and the violence in Camp 2. I can understand that he has to defend his business, but lying is not the way to do it.
There has yet been any formal statement from the Sherpas directly involved in the conflict.
This is a partial list of the extensive media coverage. I will update it only if there is new information revealed:
I want to thank everyone for your thoughts on this difficult event. I cover Everest each season, when I am not climbing, to promote the awareness and research on behalf of Alzheimer’s Disease. Alpine mountaineering is my passion and I do not condone any form of disrespect or violence for any reason, anywhere. For your reference, these are the pertinent articles representing various viewpoints:
Moro/Sherpa Conflict Coverage
Climber Press Releases and Interviews
- Simone Moro, professional climber, original press release
- Ueli Steck, professional climber, press release
- Jon Griffith, professional photographer, letter on UK Climbing
- Simone Moro PlanetMountain interview
- Simone Moro National Geographic interview
- Ueli Steck SwissInfo.ch Interview
- Ueli Steck Outside Magazine interview
- Jon Griffith final press release
Professional Mountain Guides and Operators
- Melissa Arnot, professional guide
- Garrett Madison, professional guide, opinion piece representing the Sherpas
- Mike Hamill, professional guide
- Himalayan Ascent, Nepali Guide Company
- Russell Brice, Himex, professional operator
Memories are Everything