For those of you who have been asking for an insightful analysis of the punch up on the Lhotse Face over the weekend, I’m not going to disappoint you. But first some background for those of you who may have missed it.
Superstar climbers Ueli Steck and Simone Moro, and their cameraman Jon Griffith, were involved in an altercation with a team of Sherpas who were fixing ropes at 7400m near Camp 3 on Everest. When they returned to Camp 2, the climbers were confronted by an angry mob of Sherpas, and allegedly had to flee for their lives through the Khumbu Icefall back to Base Camp. Those are the bare bones, but you can read more about it in Simone Moro’s statement (translated from the Italian), Ueli Steck’s statement, the Guardian, the BBC, and many other places.
In fact, as usual people have been falling over themselves to report the story without waiting for the facts to emerge, and it’s been hard to tell truth from fiction.
“The reasons behind the attack are complicated and deep-rooted and to do with the relationship between Westerners and Nepalis on the mountain over many years,” commented Jon Griffith on Facebook, according to a report on the BMC website. The incident was due to a clash of civilisations and two types of climbing styles – commercial expeditions and purist – the Nepali Times reported. It was an uprising against the way Nepalis feel treated by westerners, the three climbers said in a joint statement, according to the Daily Mail, who also reported that they are continuing with their expedition.
“Total bollocks, we are leaving Nepal as soon as we can,” Jon Griffith apparently told the Telegraph.
The Sherpas reacted aggressively because the climbers were moving unroped and much faster, and this caused their pride to be wounded, the BBC reported the climbers as saying (presumably swapping their ice axes for a spade to dig a bigger pit for themselves). More amusingly the Nepali newswire that originally broke the story reported the climbers names as Simboli Moro and Wool Stick, and many mass media outlets such as the Daily Mail and the Daily Express simply cut-and-pasted the story without bothering to do any basic fact checking. This had a surprisingly positive effect on their readers, as I tweeted at the time:
Every cloud: Daily Mail readers are so bemused by Wool Stick’s name only 2 of them remembered to make racist remarks pic.twitter.com/yEGgkMPLV0
— Mark Horrell 🌋 (@markhorrell) April 28, 2013
But is any of this true, or is it all just idle speculation? Well, the Footsteps on the Mountain team is not averse to joining the stampede for a quick story, so here is the insightful analysis I promised.
The Insightful Analysis
I can confirm the following three factors were involved in the altercation:
- Wounded pride
- Too much testosterone
And there we have it. The brawl happened because of wounded pride, provocation and too much testosterone. In fact, the only standard ingredient missing was alcohol. I can also reveal the consequences of the fight were:
- A westerners’ perspective (freely available on many blogs and websites)
- A Sherpa perspective (completely unavailable, even if you happen to know a climbing Sherpa you can ask)
And one other thing:
- Simboli Moro and Wool Stick are joke names, like Sillius Soddus and Biggus Dickus
I leave the final word with Stephen Venables, the first Briton to climb Everest without supplementary oxygen, who tweeted this accurate reconstruction of what probably happened up there:
— Stephen Venables (@Venables_S) April 29, 2013
And if you think this post has been unnecessarily frivolous, even by the standards of this blog, don’t worry, normal service will be resumed on Wednesday.
Did you enjoy this blog post? This post also appears in my book Sherpa Hospitality as a Cure for Frostbite, a collection of the best posts from this blog exploring the evolution of Sherpa mountaineers, from the porters of early expeditions to the superstar climbers of the present day. It’s available from all good e-bookstores and is also available as a paperback. Click on the big green button to find out more.