Three Mountaineers Assaulted On Mt. Everest By Sherpas

The 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.

Upon 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]

Atlanta TSA employee allegedly abducts, assaults woman and attempts suicide

As if the TSA didn’t have enough to worry about this week …

Only hours before the busiest travel day of the year, news has gotten out that a TSA employee working at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta – the busiest airport in the country – attempted to commit suicide. It was a particularly grotesque situation, as he allegedly abducted a young woman, sexually assaulted her and gave her his suicide note to pass along.

Randall Scott King is reported to have snatched the woman from a MARTA parking lot last Wednesday night. He took her to his home in Hogansville, Georgia – around 50 miles from Atlanta – and allegedly assaulted her. King then let her go, bearing the suicide note he gave her.

When the alleged victim notified the authorities, King was found at his home with self-inflicted wounds – he’s now in critical condition at Columbus’ Regional Medical Center. He was a behavior detection officer with the TSA, where he has worked for close to five years, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

King and the woman he’s alleged to have abducted knew each other, according to airport spokeswoman Katena Carvajales: “They left the airport together voluntarily.”

[photo by hyku via Flickr]

Does the airline industry really consider JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater a hero?

As you know, I’ve been following the story of flight-attendant-turned-runaway Steven Slater closely. What started as the quirky, though dangerous, reaction of a man pushed too far has become a bit more complicated. Slater’s message board activity has shown his likely instability, his own words tell that he’s been planning this for a while and it’s becoming increasingly likely that he lied about being assaulted by a passenger. And, let’s not forget that the man responsible for passenger safety – the only aspect of their job description that flight attendants harp on – actually put people at risk.

So … a hero?

Contributing to the Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog, flight attendant Sara Keagle, with 18 years in the cabin, asks this very question. Even after acknowledging that “investigators are questioning the account, she explains:

Back to the question: is Steven Slater a hero? Hero may be a strong word. Especially in light of reports that other passengers aboard the flight don’t recall seeing the alleged unruly passenger. But, regardless, Slater’s actions have come to represent an idea. For me and the coworkers I have talked to, the story has become a release. Steven did what we’ll probably never do. But when he jumped, he spoke to us. He said, “It’s not just you. We all feel like jumping sometimes.”

Yes, all flight attendants “feel like jumping sometimes,” I’ll take Keagle’s word for it – but how many do?
Even the notion of admiring Slater disturbs me, because it runs counter to the stated role of the flight attendant on the plane, namely safety, and supporting this guy necessarily results in clear hypocrisy. As the story unfolds, I do wonder if the perception of Slater within the aviation industry will change.

Six Flags employees booted for pounding Porky Pig

Oink. Oink. Ouch.

Two off-duty Six Flags Great America employees were tossed from the park after they were seen beating the bacon out of a female coworker dressed as Porky Pig. According to Gurnee, Illinois Police Sgt. Jon Ward, the two perps posed for a picture with their 24-year-old swine-shrouded colleague before hitting her in the head between 10 and 15 times.

Park security pinched the punchers and held on to them until the real police came on the scene and issued local ordinance citations for battery. The alleged pig-poppers maintained their innocence but eye witnesses said otherwise.

The porcine victim was stuck with a stiff neck, headaches and something to post on fmylife.

[photo by bmayzure via Flickr]

Accusations traded between police and detainees in Antigua

Six Carnival cruise ship passengers hit and choked the police. Or, the police punched the passengers in the face. A week after the half dozen New Yorkers were arrested, the only thing that’s clear is that both sides say they’re right.

While on a 10-hour port call in Antigua, the cruise passengers paid a taxi driver to give them a tour of the island. The tour ended at a beach – rather than back at the cruise ship – and the once happy wanderers balked at having to shell out $100 on top of the $50 they’d already paid for the ride. A brawl ensued, and the police were called. The mayhem ended with incarceration.

The passengers were let out on $5,000 bail on Monday but have to stay in the country until the trial is concluded. Dolores Lalanne, Mike Pierre Paul, Joshua Jackson, Shoshonna Henry, Nancy Lalanne and Rachael Henry all entered pleas of not guilty to charges including battery and malicious damage. Prosecutors dropped the assault charges.

The trial began Wednesday, with the police testifying that the New Yorkers behaved aggressively. One officer, Alcia Browne-Weston claimed to have been kicked in the stomach and then choked by one of the tourists. Meanwhile, the defendants say the cops – not wearing uniforms – did not announce themselves before starting the altercation. Shoshonna Henry claimed to The Associated Press: “We thought these people were going to kill us.”

The trial is set to continue today.