News Headlines     |     


Nepal police investigate Everest fight
Tuesday April 30, 2013 - Email this article to a friend

Further details are emerging of the incident as 3 European climbers were attacked by angry Sherpas. They said they feared for their lives as rocks and punches were thrown. The Sherpas responded after the climbers allegedly put them in danger and continued to climb after being told to stop.

The incident happened last Saturday.

At 8 AM the climbers, Ueli Steck and Simone Moro, along with the British climber and photographer, Jonathan Griffith, were climbing up to Camp Three at an altitude of more than 7,000m.

They were attempting a new route without ropes or supplementary oxygen.  Steck and Moro are two of the most respected and accomplished current alpinists.

The three men passed a group of Sherpas putting in fixed ropes up the Lhotse face. 

They do this to help the less able climbers who will be attempting to climb the mountain shortly.

Steck, Moro and Griffith say they carried on climbing despite being asked to stop and they kept 50m away from the ropes of the Sherpas.  At one point though they crossed the lines and it is claimed they dislodged some ice that fell on at least one Sherpa.

There was an altercation at the time and when the two groups returned later that day to Camp Two things turned nastier.

Around 100 Sherpas apparently converged on the European climbers, punching and kicking them.  Rocks were thrown at them and at one point a small knife.

"They became instantly aggressive and not only punched and kicked the climbers, but threw many rocks as well," the three said in a statement.

"The climbers were told that by that night one of them would be dead and the other two they would see to later..... and were told that if they weren't gone in one hour that they would all be killed."

Another group of climbers intervened and managed to calm the situation. Some of them were also reportedly attacked.

The three European climbers then returned to Base Camp where they contacted the outside world with their side of the story.

Here at PlanetSKI we reported on the story on Monday when news reached the outside world. There is a full statement on the incident from the Europeans in our original story.

It has made headlines around the world as fist fights and this sort of aggression on Everest are not the norm and the authorities are worried of the damage it may do to the climbing industry which supports many livelihoods and generates much revenue.

The Police, Ministry of Tourism and the head of the Sherpa Association are investigating.  The lead Sherpas have been interviewed.

Government official are saying there was a misunderstanding and things have calmed down.

It is not without some strange elements though.

The Daily Mail and other British newspapers called Ueil Steck 'Wool Sock' on Monday after a mis-translated version of his name came up through an internet translation site.

On a more serious note the incident could have been much more unpleasant and turned out with serious injuries or worse.

The climbers have repeated that they were in genuine fear for their lives.

Some say the pride of the Sherpas had been hurt and it reflects a growing resentment from the local Sherpas to the huge number of foreign climbers that come to the region.

The three climbers made the following comment in their statement; "The reaction was from a far more deep rooted and long term problem, which is the way that Nepalis feel treated by Westerners on the mountain and this was a uprising against that."

The full statement is reproduced in this PlanetSKI story.

See the video below for a Channel 4 news report on the story.

In this interview made just before leaving for Mt Everest, Ueli Steck, talks about climbing Mt Everest, his most significant ascents, and the importance of leaving Everest open to all climbers in order to protect the livelihoods of the Nepalese people.

Investigations by the authorities continue and there is no doubt the start of the Everest climbing season has been over-shadowed by the incident.

It is the 60th anniversary of the first ascent of Mount Everest by Sir Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tensig Norgay.

More than 3,000 people have reached the summit since.

Last winter there were news reports on some people's behaviour as they tried to reach the highest point on Earth.

Over-crowding also caused huge problems as people lined up to reach the summit.

We reported on it in this story from the time.

For others it is not quite as ideal as it may seem. 

The Everest climber and adventurer, Squash Falconer, wrote a personal account of what it is like to stand on the summit for PlanetSKI.

Squash FalconerSquash Falconer














Jonathan Griffith writes for the organision UK Climbing and he has just sent th web site the followign letter.

To see the web site then follow this link.

Dear UKC,

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.

Jon Griffith

For the spirit of the mountains


Related Articles

OCTOBER NEWS IN BRIEF (Friday October 18, 2019)
SKI CHALET SCAMS ARE BACK (Tuesday October 15, 2019)
SKI SURVEY: THE RESULTS (Friday October 11, 2019)
PLANE CRASHES INTO CHAIRLIFT (Friday October 11, 2019)

With thanks to our main sponsors...

Platinum partners

Bronze partners