Among their many outstanding achievements, Denis Urubko (left) and Simone Moro (right) accomplished the first winter ascent of Makalu, at 27,825' (8,481 m) close to the altitude of Mount Everest. The men climbed the peak in brutal cold without any logistics or supplementary oxygen.
2011 Denis (in image) led the way in another world first winter ascent: of Gasherbrum 2 (26,362'/8,035 m) Image by Simone Moro courtesy Simone Moro, SOURCE
Urubko climbed various 8000ers in alpine style via new routes and K2 in a 2-men team (with Serguey Samoilov) via the North-West ridge.
This season Denis Urubko hopes to repeat Everest via a new route. The line was drawn by Denis on a photograph of Everest’s South-West Wall made by Simone Moro from approximate altitude of 8200 during his solo flight by helicopter along Nuptse ridge in Spring 2012. Urubko and his climbing partner Alexei Bolotov will be well visible from the Western Cwm area of traditional Everest Camp 2. Image by Simone Moro and Denis Urubko courtesy Denis Urubko and Alexei Bolotov
The report is as bad as the previous, "I remember thinking that that was 'it' and they were collecting us one by one to stone us," wrote Jon about watching Simone being led away.
All being said and done, one horse remained: Denis Urubko, friend of the independent climbers and leader of the "other" new route team - a *Kazakh/Russian duo of the best high altitude quality in the world of climbers today.
Khumbu wars Translated from report by Denis Urubko.
"Many people want to climb Everest and all have an equal right to try. Nepal rules make it mandatory for climbers to use Nepali Sherpas to fix ropes not only in the Everest icefall but also on the Lhotse wall.
I was not surprised by what happened to Simone's team. Despite warm relations in the past, to me the clash was expected. I will only express my personal experiences in relation to the event, and my personal opinion for the reasons at the heart of the conflict. To keep my account concise I won't back each point with an example, but it all comes from my own practical experience.
Many years of expeditions have taught me that violence is useless to resolve conflicts on the route. Brute force will only result in trouble for all parties involved. Nobody will be able to understand who hit first, who was right, or who was guilty.
I have often seen Sherpas lose self-control, be the first to rush in to fight, begin the aggression, stretch for a weapon. I have seen this personally in all the conflicts that I have witnessed between Nepali and people of other nationalities. The western mindset on the contrary has been to resolve the problem without physical interaction.
I therefore learned a lot from Simone Moro in how he managed to find a peaceful solution, satisfying all, in the extraordinary situation.
Ueli Steck embodies European tolerance that knows no borders. He is very gentle when it comes to dealings with people. The same can be told about John Griffith, an artist who never got in confrontation with anybody during the expedition.
In a mob, locals lose frameworks of decencies and care. Impunity coupled with territorial self confidence break the last boundaries. This is true of course not only of Nepal.
On a mountain the group can continue the conflict further in countless ways; creating problems in relations with other locals, stealing or damaging your gear, wrecking your health and the entire spirit of the climb.
It's a fact that Sherpas consider Everest their property, forgetting that they are a part of all the people in Nepal. This "high-cast" mentality allows them to look at people of other nationalities with scorn, and to dictate "unwritten" rules. The majority is therefore deeply indifferent to other unwritten rules such as hospitality, respect of skill, and ambitions to try something new.
I must point out that these Sherpa are in effect a minority.
The other Sherpas, actually the majority only with less contact with foreigners, are well mannered, treating people with the above mentioned "unwritten rules" of humanity: warm kindness and sincere respect. They belong to either of two categories: the older, successful men knowing the price of money as a result of hard work. Or the young not yet subject to easy money and idleness. Both categories are kind with visitors of the Khumbu valley.
Money have impregnated all the rest. It sounds paradoxical, but money was what broke the Moro-Steck-Griffith team. Because behind the back of the sirdar who started the conflict were uncountable dollars from commercial groups of clients, for whom the rope was being fixed. Combined with the aforesaid, it allowed the conflict to deepen until it became impossible to pull the situation out of the abyss.
Hundreds of pseudo-climbers, who paid money for the road to Everest top, stood behind one hundred Sherpas, getting a false idea that they had been offended. This stick has two ends.
Sherpas have for a long time held a stereotype that they are the actual (main) climbers. A crowd of collectors depend on their work, ready to pay money for a chance to become the first "…-ner", "the person with …", "the person without …", "…-sual", "… times in … days".
That's fine but all these pseudo-heroes become slaves of the masters of the situation - the Sherpas - bound to suffer mockery and contempt behind their backs while in their faces the smiles will match their bank accounts.
The steady stream of clients and crowding on Everest have resulted in a catastrophic drop of qualified high-altitude Sherpa. Commercial expeditions have to hire everybody for any money. This is why Nepali workers often perish in the icefall crevasses, they are inexperienced climbers who just recently learned how to use a jumar on the route.
Inexperienced and self-assured, Sherpa think it's in their right to dictate the rules and God have mercy if someone decides you sent him a "bad glance". You have immediately offended hundreds of his colleagues who band together in protection of their pseudo-rights and pseudo-duties. Behind them a silent mass of pseudo-climbers depending on the workers for ropes, camps and supplementary oxygen.
Please imagine instead a Sirdar that was a good climber, knowing of the route conditions, respecting other people. He would not panic on 35-degree ice, especially not considering he was using a rope already fixed to camp 3 by Bolotov and I. Upon seeing skilled climbers Simone, Ueli, and John delicately cross the rope he would handle it professionally and nothing explosive would follow.
There are almost no rocks on the Lhotse slope, so it wouldn't be possible to hurt somebody below in such a way. Moro's crampons could cut loose only fragments ice at the most. The spot was in such a location that nothing could fall much more than 5 meters.
At the most the Sirdar could have tried to discuss a possible event with management in base camp. Misunderstanding his job he instead fueled what became a bunch of hooligans mistaking themselves for Everest Kings - gathering a crowd against three climbers.
Details of the attack appear gradually in the reports of mountaineering sources. For example, that there were around twenty foreign climbers in place at the time. Practically all of them just watching, not interfering with the Sherpa crowd.
If those guys had been more active, the fight could have been calmed without problems. The humiliation of my friends - on their knees, kicked and stoned - could have been avoided. But only two persons tried to help: Melissa Arnot and Marti Schmidt. They rushed before the attacking Sherpas, receiving kicks and blows, their faces broken in blood.
Many people knew that I belonged to Simone's expedition in the village of Deboche where I was recovering from my illness. I was therefore not surprised by the malicious glances from porters and guides the next day.
Approaching base camp two days later I saw two sherpas near the tents demonstrating victory by urinating openly five meters before a group of foreigners. What can be said about it? One word - pigs.
What then became of the sirdar who caused all this mess? I heard he was relieved of his job, and sent home. After a week of course, he will re-appear on the route, arrogant and self-confident as ever. Family ties are tight on the mountain and after all, someone has to do the job.
The majority of the so-called "sherpas" can't climb. At the most such commercial workers are able to use jumars and crampons to carry oxygen bottles and establish tents for clients on the Lhotse wall. Reaching higher is only their arrogance and pride.
The result is unfavourable. Ueli Steck, injured physically and morally, has left for home. Nobody will give him back the belief in Solo Khumbu people and ten thousand euro climbing fee. Simone Moro and John Griffith are in a similar situation. The world has lost something beautiful, new, and interesting on Everest.
The cattle which waved knifes and stones in Camp 2 had their self-respect fully satisfied. They remained right before their families, friends, fellow citizens and the law of Nepal. They should work, feed their children, feed the economy of Nepal, and help people of the World to touch the rim of the Highest top.
The hundreds of people who paid money for the indisputable right to climb the mountain will reach the top on ropes fixed by such men.
Good luck, friends, have courage on your adventure!
Just please don't throw empty oxygen cylinders on Everest East Face. A new Carlos Buhler may suddenly appear there, aspiring to lay way to the Unknown.
He too, has rights.
Editor's note: Urubko is referring to a 2004 incident where a team climbing a new route on Everest Central North Face experienced someone throwing empty O2 bottles down the wall from the normal route above; the Russian climbers, right underneath, missed a couple of them just by inches.
*Born in Russia, Denis Urubko is once again Russian citizen after changing back this winter. He now lives in Rjazan, the native town of his wife.