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Ueli Steck and Sherpas
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Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Ueli Steck and Sherpas on 09/27/2013 11:08:03 MDT Print View

I just watched the Reel Rock Tour last night and there's a great film in it that looks at the Everest fight this year. They even have footage of the fight up at Camp Two. All in all I highly recommend it. Below is summary of the documentary and the situation of Everest climbing.

From what I gathered, there was a minor issue when the lines were being fixed. Basically Ueli and Simone didn't know the rules that the commercial teams had agreed upon regarding climbing while the sherpas fixed the lines. Do the commercial companies own the South Face and get to dictate the rule to alpinists? That's sort of the crux of the aftermath. The exact details will forever remain in he says/she says territory but the two versions go like this: Ueli was crossing the fixed ropes underneath the sherpas as he traversed the face to reach camp two. The lead sherpa speed rappelled down to Ueli and nearly crashed into him. This caused Ueli to put his hands up and brace for impact resulting in the first physical contact of Ueli grabbing the sherpa. Remember Ueli is unroped with hundreds if not thousands of feet of steep ice under him. This story is most plausible based on a picture showing the team traversing while the rope fixing team is clearly above the alpinists and the actual nature of the route the alpinists were taking. The Sherpas claim Ueli knocked iced on to them indicating he was actually above the Sherpas. At which point he would have had to climb down, or they would have had to climb up to him for the confrontation.

Either way, the Sherpas got annoyed and confronted Ueli. The "brash and rude Italian" Simone comes to aid his climbing partner. In Nepalese he calls the sherpa a "mother f*cker" and asks what he is doing (in english), because the sherpa was threatening Ueli while brandishing an ice axe (who is still unroped and at risk of falling thousands of feet). Well in Nepalese "motherf*cker" appears to be much, much, much worse of a swear than in English or other western societies. In addition to this the radio of one of the sherpas was on and the entire mountainside heard Simone's curse. This swear was the spark in a powderkeg.

The keg had nothing to do with Ueli or Alpinists in general. The social climate on the mountain has been boiling for a while. From the very early days there has been a clear discrepancy between the treatment of the local Sherpa and the Western Alpinists. Consider it your run of the mill colonial inequality BS. In the last few years the younger sherpa have begun to stand up for themselves and recognize the inequality in treatment and pay. They perceive it as a continued disrespect and humiliation of their people. A natural interpretation given the decades of use, if not abuse, of sherpas for Himalayan climbing. A conflict like this was inevitable according to younger sherpa and many believe they will continue until more equitable conditions arise.

So now Ueli and Simone step into this world, onto some toes, and everything explodes. The video at camp two though is just horrific. Whatever the issue was on the face, the response was unjustified. The footage clearly shows Ueli being kicked and beaten on the ground surrounded by a mob of sherpas. Simone gets kicked while kneeling to apologize, slapped or punched in the face while further apologizing and stones larger than softballs are repeatedly thrown at the alpinists. All this while the Western guides are pleading "no violence." Melissa Arnot steps in and is probably the only reason no one was murdered because violence towards a woman is more taboo in Sherpa culture than violence in general. The alpinists survive, the Sherpas give them an hour to vacate the mountain before coming back to kill them.

Down at basecamp tempers cool off a bit and the Alpinists and the Commercial Guides actually do an in depth analysis of the conflict to figure out how best to address it in the short term and the long term. The analysis was honest but the results and conclusions were debatable (no one was fired, sherpas involved received slap on the wrist demotions) and the multimillion dollar machine of high altitude climbing continued. Still we'll see if better conditions for Sherpa arise out of this.

Old timer sherpas are horrified and fear that their reputation has been tarnished.

Guides are now aware of the culture a bit better and just how seriously the sherpa feel, but still seem to have dollar signs in their eyes.

Alpinists seem to have to defer to the big buck corporate world at least on the South Face despite no actual regulations stipulating this and their general lack of Sherpa usage.

Simone Moro continues to "live" on Everest flying his helicopter and performing rescues. A few days after the fight he rescued some sherpas who had been the in the attack against him and everything was copacetic.

Ueli was disheartened and sickened but with time he seems to want to return to the Himalaya and finish his new route on Everest.

Edited by upalachango on 09/27/2013 11:09:15 MDT.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Ueli Steck and Sherpas on 09/27/2013 11:31:39 MDT Print View

Everest is no longer worth doing.

Where are those secret alpine style trips to K2, the Real mountain ?

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
RE: Ueli Steck and Sherpas on 09/27/2013 11:59:43 MDT Print View

Cultural factors were no doubt involved ... but influence of the desire for money & its exclusivity were factors as well.

Here is the BPL thread that has several versions linked to and has a variety of opinions expressed:
Ueli Steck tossed off Everest Thread

rather interesting is Steck's version:
Ueli Steck’s Story

... And the team's final response:
Final Release from Climbing Team

Edited by tr-browsing on 09/27/2013 12:20:42 MDT.

Richard Fischel
one of the rules of international travel on 09/27/2013 12:12:32 MDT Print View

don’t interfere intentionally or otherwise with the locals who are trying to make a living with a further caveat that if confronted, discretion is the better part of valor. incidents like this happens all over the world where the locals have an economy based on rules, official or otherwise. and while the big tour companies don’t own the mountain, i’d say the sherpa community have some say on how things are done. i don't think they (or anybody) deserved to take a beating in a situation like this, but violating cultural norms with a social transgression can have a negative outcome especially when you have a mob mentality.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Ueli Steck and Sherpas on 09/27/2013 14:23:48 MDT Print View

Decided to keep my trap shut ; ).

Edited by jshann on 09/27/2013 16:33:41 MDT.