(Newsdesk) He led the 2011 Everest - Lhotse ascent where climbers successfully reached the summit of two 8000 meter peaks in less than 24 hours. Working for Alpine Ascents American Garrett Madison guided one of the climbers peak to peak in 21 hours and has become one of the foremost client escorts on Mount Everest in later years. Last night Garrett shot over his take on the recent Everest events. Here goes.
Fight at Camp 2 on Everest
By Garrett Madison
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.
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Altercation on Everest resolved
Previous - Everest brawl: Ueli going home
Press release on Ueli Steck's website
Incident on Simone Moro's website
Simone & Ueli's cameraman Jonathan Griffith reports to EpicTV
Planet Mountain interview with Simone Moro
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