KATHMANDU: News is reaching us that a 42-year-old expedition leader from Cumbria has been arrested in Nepal for allegedly doctoring images of Mount Everest’s legendary Hillary Step, and posting them on Facebook.
Tom Moosedale from Homebrewdale has had his passport confiscated and is facing a $22,000 fine. He claims that he has not committed a crime and was only describing what he saw.
The Hillary Step, a 12-metre-high cliff on Everest’s south-east ridge is considered a sacred site to the Nepalese, protected by anti-blasphemy laws which prevent anyone suggesting that it might have changed shape.
Mr Moosedale’s photograph of the Hillary Step has been shared widely on social media websites and multimedia apps. It appears to show clearly that the once-mighty precipice high up in the Death Zone on Mount Everest’s fearsome slopes, has become nothing more than a gentle slide you can find in any children’s adventure playground.
Mr Moosedale claims that the cliff face collapsed in an earthquake two years ago, and has since been eroded to the smoothness of polished marble by the “human snake” of tourists that are dragged up it by Sherpa Guides every year, hoping to tick off the summit of Mount Everest for their bucket lists.
“There is not the slightest possibility that an earthquake could have altered the shape of the Hillary Step,” said Angst Ridden Sherpa, a spokesperson for Nepal’s Ministry of Funny Announcements. “Do not believe these lies. The Hillary Step is an important part of Nepal’s economy. Thousands of people come to climb it every year, and there is no way we would let it fall down in an earthquake. If it did then we would rebuild it.”
“I know Mr Moosedale’s photograph, and other copycat photographs like it, make it look like the Hillary Step has changed shape,” he rabbited on, “but the only explanation is that these photographs have been manipulated using computer software. It is an insult to Nepal. We take these things very seriously. We will do everything possible to ensure that the people responsible for such fake news are punished.”
We spoke to Mr Moosedale from his prison cell in Kathmandu.
“It’s horrible here,” he told us. “I’ve eaten nothing but dal bhat [a popular dish of rice and lentils] for three days and now the room is starting to smell. I’m exhausted from doing interviews with every English-language newspaper in the known world. A reporter from the BBC has even taken the cell next door and asks me questions all night through a hole in the wall. I’ve received death threats from people who say they are fed up of hearing my name mentioned in every bloody news report. They say there is so much about me and the Hillary Step that they can no longer get any decent stories about President Trump.”
If all this wasn’t bad enough, Mr Moosedale has had his passport and wallet taken, and has been told that unless he pays a fine of $22,000 into a Swiss bank account then he will be banned from Nepal for ten years.
“I can’t afford that amount,” he said via email, which has recently become available in Nepal between power cuts. “I tried to sell some of my oxygen bottles to pay for it, but I discovered they had been stolen from a tent on the South Col. If I ever get out of here then I will have to turn my home into a bed and breakfast to repay my debts.”
For years the Hillary Step has been a notorious bottleneck on Mount Everest’s deadly summit route, which has now become so easy that anyone with enough money can climb it without needing to put on crampons. In recent years, tailbacks of several miles have been reported, and tourists regularly have to queue for four days to get up it. If the Hillary Step has really gone then you might think it would be even easier to climb, but some newspapers have been reporting that it will now be harder. This sounds perverse, but there is no need for you to question it.
Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain in the Himalayas near China, has been dogged by controversy this year. There have been so many conflicting stories blowing off its slopes that you don’t know what to believe. The popular Mount Everest blogger Colin Readyornot even described this year’s climbing season as “having more twists than a US-election campaign”. While that might be taking things a bit too far, there is no doubt that the increasing number of climbers posting messages from the many new internet cafés that have opened on its slopes is creating confusion.
A special page has been set up to pay Mr Moosedale’s fine on the crowdfunding website GoFuckMe. There are many reputable charities and NGOs working tirelessly to end global poverty, but if you prefer to donate to Mr Moosedale’s fund instead then click here.