Three Mountaineers Assaulted On Mt. Everest By Sherpas

Sherpas on Everest attacked three climbers this weekendThe 2013 spring climbing season on Mt. Everest took a strange and unexpected turn this past weekend when a team of three climbers was assaulted by a mob of angry Sherpas. The incident first began at one of the mountain’s high camps, then reignited further down the slope when tempers flared up once again. If it weren’t for the brave intervention of other Western climbers, the conflict could have resulted in severe injury, or even the death, of the mountaineers involved.

This past Saturday, independent climbers Ueli Steck of Switzerland, Simone Moro of Italy and Jonathan Griffith of the U.K. were all climbing towards Camp 3, located at 7200 meters (23,622 feet), when they came across a team of Sherpas. The high altitude guides were busy fixing lines up the mountain that the commercial climbers will use as they scale it over the next few weeks. The Sherpas asked the Europeans to stay off the ropes while they were being worked on, as it was possible the climbers could dislodge debris and send it falling down on them while they worked. Steck, Moro and Griffith, who are each very accomplished climbers, agreed with the request and proceed up the slope using their own ropes that ran parallel to those the Sherpas were working on.

As they neared their campsite, the three climbers needed to cross the fixed ropes in order to get to their tents. As they carefully proceeded over the lines, the lead Sherpa, who was working above them at the time, rapidly descended and immediately began shouting at them to stay off the ropes. He accused the team of dislodging a chunk of ice, which struck and injured one of his workers below. Something the European climbers deny. The argument only escalated from there, culminating with the entire Sherpa team ceasing their work and descending to Camp 2 in a huff.Steck, Moro and Griffith then proceeded to their campsite to drop off several loads of gear and discuss what to do next. In an effort to extend an olive branch and show respect to the Sherpas for their efforts, Steck decided to help with the rope fixing himself, adding 260 additional meters to the work that had already been completed. But after spending some time mulling their options, they decided it was best to descend to Camp 2 just as the Sherpas had.

Sherpas on Everest attacked mountaineers this weekendUpon arriving there, they were immediately met with an angry mob. The team of 17 Sherpas that the climbers had confronted on the mountain slopes had grown to nearly 100. The group attacked the three men, punching and kicking them repeatedly. Some threw rocks at them in an effort to severely injure or even kill them. The incensed Sherpa contingent was clearly out for blood.

Fortunately, other Western climbers were on site and jumped in to serve as a buffer zone between the trio from Europe and their assailants. It took the better part of an hour, but things finally began to calm down. At that time, the Sherpas told Steck, Moro and Griffith that they had better get back down the mountain to Base Camp, because if they spent the night in C2, one of them would lose his life. They promised to see to the other two climbers as well.

Grabbing a few pieces of gear, the three men descended back to Base Camp, but out of fear for their lives they didn’t use any of the fixed ropes that are in place along the route. When they arrived in BC, Ueli Steck was immediately flown to a hospital in a nearby village for treatment. He had suffered a minor injury to his head when he was struck by a rock during the melee but doctors didn’t find any serious damage. After spending a night under observation, he was back in Base Camp the following day.

The team had been considering continuing the expedition. Steck and Moro are two of the best climbers of their generation and they don’t give up easily. But after meeting with authorities yesterday and members of the Sherpa association, the three European climbers have decided to call it quits for the season and head home.

In the aftermath of the violent incident, three of the Sherpas have been removed from the mountain, while the police and the Ministry of Tourism investigates what exactly happened. Everyone knows that this story won’t be good for Nepal’s image, which relies heavily on tourism dollars from climbers and trekkers to stay afloat.

[Photo Credits: Rupert Taylor-Price via Wikimedia, Jonathan Griffith]

Sherpa Is First Fatality Of The Season On Everest

On the left is the summit of Everest, tallest peak on the planetThe spring climbing season on Mt. Everest is barely a week old and the mountain has already claimed its first death of the year. On Sunday, 45-year-old Mingmar Sherpa took a fatal fall into a crevasse while descending from Camp 2 on the mountain’s South Side. His companions attempted to mount a rescue operation but it took several hours to retrieve his body from the crevasse, at which time it was already too late.

Mingmar was a member of the famed Everest Icefall Doctors, a highly trained group of Sherpas whose job it is to build and maintain a safe route through the Khumbu Icefall each year. The group places ladders across open crevasses and fixes ropes through this dangerous section, allowing the climbers that come after them to pass through quickly and safely. That route had just been completed on Saturday and the Icefall Docs were helping to shuttle gear up the slope to two of the higher camps when the accident occurred.

Last spring was a particularly deadly season on the world’s tallest mountain where ten people lost their lives in pursuit of the summit. Unusually warm and dry conditions helped to make the mountain unstable, causing rocks to tumble down its slopes and forcing climbers to scramble across bare rock rather than the more preferred snow and ice. The 2013 season doesn’t appear to be a repeat of those conditions, however, as it has been a long, cold winter – with plenty of snow – in the Himalaya this year. As a result, the entire mountain is more stable, which should translate to fewer hazards and fatalities in the weeks ahead.

The mountaineering teams are just now arriving in Base Camp and will begin heading up the mountain in the next few days. Most will spend several weeks acclimatizing to the altitude while honing their skills and watching the skies for a weather window that will allow them to make a summit bid. Traditionally, the first summit attempts from the commercial climbing teams begin around mid-May.

Hopefully this early-season death isn’t a sign of things to come this year.

[Photo Credit: Kraig Becker]

Photo Of The Day: Warming Up Around A Fire In The Mountains Of India

Somewhere at the core of every human being is a pull to a fire. We are drawn to that place where we sit as a tribe around a source of warmth, sharing stories and building connections. That spirit is embodied in this photo by Flickr user arunchs, who snapped this scene of three men in Zanskar, a valley region in eastern India where nighttime temperatures can reach upwards of 20 below zero.

Maybe this is why we travel. Why we circle around a table with new friends. Why we gather around a group of street performers. No matter where we find ourselves, we are drawn to shared experiences, be it around a fire, a meal or simply a map.

Have a photo that embodies the spirit of travel? Add your photos to the Gadling Flickr pool to be chosen for the Photo of the Day feature.

[Photo Credit: arunchs]

80-Year-Old Sets Sights On Everest Summit

80-year old climber to attempt Everest summitEighty-year-old Japanese skier and mountaineer Yuichiro Miura has announced his intentions to attempt a summit of Mt. Everest this spring, returning to a mountain that made him famous back in 1970. If successful, Miura would become the oldest person to ever climb the mountain and the first octogenarian to do so.

This won’t be Miura’s first visit to the world’s tallest mountain. He first climbed it back in 1970, stopping short of the summit because he had another goal in mind. As an accomplished high alpine skier, Miura had traveled to the Himalayan peak in an attempt to become the first person to ski down its slopes – something that had previously been unthinkable. But the Japanese man, who was 37 at the time, achieved his goal and inspired the Oscar-winning documentary “The Man Who Skied Down Everest.”

After completing his quest to ski the Seven Summits – the tallest peaks on each of the seven continents – in 1985, Miura then chose to lead a quieter life for some time. But as he grew older, the Himalaya called to him once more and in 2003 he declared that he would return to Everest, this time to climb all the way to the summit. He was 70 years old at the time and when he was successful in his attempt, he became the oldest person to accomplish that feat. He would return five years later to scale the mountain again at the age of 75 and staying on his five-year schedule he is returning this year as well.

At the summit of the 29,029-foot mountain, the air is so thin that it’s roughly one-third of what you find at sea level. That’s enough to make climbers half Miura’s age gasp for air while their legs scream out in exhaustion. The 80-year-old says that he’ll need to regain the strength and energy of a much younger man if he hopes to be successful. He describes his quest for a third summit of the mountain as the “best anti-aging” activity that he knows.

The spring climbing season on Everest begins in early April and will run into June. We’ll know then if it is possible for a man who has passed his 80th birthday to climb such a daunting peak.

[Photo Credit: KYODO]

9 Climbers Killed In Nepal

Nepal
Nine climbers are dead after an avalanche on one of Nepal’s tallest mountains, the Guardian reports. At least five climbers were injured and have been evacuated to Kathmandu.

The avalanche hit the climbers’ camps at 7,000 meters (22,966 feet) on Mount Manaslu, a 8,163-meter (26,781-foot) peak and the eighth tallest in the world. More than 200 climbers and guides were on the mountain, but not all were in the area of the avalanche. The nationalities of only three of the dead are known at this time – German Spanish, and Nepali. The Toronto Star reports that seven climbers are missing – five French, a Canadian, and an Italian climber.

Mountain rescue crews, assisted by helicopters, are searching the area for bodies and survivors.

This is the beginning of the autumn mountaineering season in Nepal, a time right after the monsoon season when unstable weather makes avalanches more common.

This sobering news reminds me of my own trip to the Annapurna Base Camp, when a Japanese team lost some men in an avalanche on a nearby peak. It’s good to remember that adventure travel carries with it certain inherent risks.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.