The spring climbing season is underway on Mt. Everest and it’s being widely reported that a group of three western climbers were attacked above 21,000 feet by a mob angry Sherpas. I’ll set up this story for you then tell you what I think happened. Most of the climbing that is done on Mt. Everest is “siege” climbing. Teams of climbers will bring tons of supplies which includes food and climbing gear. Camps are set up along the route at successively higher altitudes. The climbers will climb from one camp to the next in stages. Should a team get into trouble they can “retreat” to a lower camp.
Sherpas are indigenous people that do all of the heavy lifting on Everest climbs. They hump gear up and down the mountain. They lay fixed ropes (more on that later) and they assist climbers during the climb. The Sherpas are among the best climbers in the world and many Sherpas have died on Mt. Everest keeping western climbers alive. They are truly among the climbing elite, so it’s quite puzzling why a group of Sherpas would attack a team of western climbers.
The “Swiss Machine” Ueli Steck, nearly gets a beatdown on Mt. Everest.
Over 4,000 people have climbed Mt. Everest most of them are not professional climbers. The typical Everest climbers life depends on the Sherpa since the Sherpa is typically the most experienced climber in most climbing teams. That being said often times professional climbers will climb Everest. Guys like Reinhold Messner and Ed Viesturs have climbed Mt. Everest several times and without the use of supplemental oxygen which is totally badass. Climbers like Messner and Viesturs are as good as any Sherpa in the world. Among the three climbers that were attacked was Ueli Steck. Steck is the ultimate climbing badass in fact he’s called “the Swiss machine”. To say that Steck is the Michael Jordan of climbing would not be an understatement. Steck specializes in “speed climbing”. Speed climbing is style of climbing which uses minimal gear and is incredibly dangerous. Steck has speed climbed some of the most difficult mountains in the world like Mt. Eiger. Click here to watch a video of Steck speed climbing Mt. Eiger.
Apparently there was a team of high altitude Sherpas laying fixed ropes. Fixed ropes are thousands of feet of climbing rope that climbers clip into so they can climb up the mountain without falling off. Using fixed ropes is the typical way one climbs Everest. You snap your ascender into the rope and hold onto it with your right hand. As you climb you slide the ascender up. The ascender slides up but not down. The ascender is clipped into your climbing harness. If you let go of the ascender or slip you are tied into the fixed rope so you won’t slide thousands of feet to your death. The Sherpas are usually the ones that lay the fixed ropes which is incredibly difficult work because of the altitude and extreme weather. Most Everest climbers would not be able to ascend the mountain without the use of fixed ropes.
Fixed ropes?…Ueli Steck don’t need no stinking fixed ropes! Here is how I believe things went down. Steck and his trio were attempting to set a new route on Everest (climbing a route for the first time). To set new route on Everest is the pantheon of badassness and if one guy can do it, it’s Steck. The Sherpas were in the process of laying down fixed ropes when Steck and his team came upon them. I don’t know who the other climbers in Steck’s trio were but if they were climbing with Steck then they must have been world class climbers. Rather than waiting for the Sherpas to finish, Stecks team crossed over the fixed ropes to continue their climb. That is where I think things got out of hand. The Sherpas probably saw Steck and his team below them tearing up the mountain like a trio of banshees. The Sherpas no doubt said something like “hey fuckers, slow down we are laying rope here can’t you see that?” Considering that Steck is not just any climbing fucker…but the best climbing fucker in the world he led his team over the fixed ropes and motored right by the Sherpas. I’m sure the Sherpas took umbrage with this abrogation of their absolute authority and became angry. They became so angry that a shouting match ensued at 21,000 feet between the Sherpas and Steck’s team. You have to appreciate a group of men getting into a verbal altercation near the top of the world. Men…will we ever learn? Here is how I think the conversation went:
Sherpas: Hey fuckers, slow the fuck down. We are laying rope here wait until we are done.
Steck does not reply but he thinks “What the fuck, I’m not using the fixed ropes. I don’t need the assistance of the Sherpas…so I’m climbing past these dumb fucks”.
Sherpa’s: “Hey ass wipe we are NOT going to tell you a second time. STOP and wait for us to finish”.
Now Steck is pissed and he responds with something like this: “Hey listen, we are not with you guys, we won’t get in your way or step on your damned stupid sissy fixed ropes…so YOU shut the fuck up and mind your own fucking business. We will be out of your way in a few minutes!”.
O.K. so now the Sherpa’s are boiling mad. They are so mad that they momentarily lose their ability to speak English and start screaming at Steck and his team invectives that if translated into English would closely resemble this: You white round eyed mother fucker! Who the fuck do you think YOU are coming to OUR mountain and bossing US around?! Do you see this ice axe that I’m holding? Well I’m coming over to you and I’m going to bury this fucking ice axe in your left eye then I’m going to do the same to your little pals as well. Your families are going to have to set up a memorial on this mountain next to your frozen one eyed dead bodies!”. Of course this is all said in whatever is the indigenous language of a Sherpa….so Steck and his team have no idea what was said to them and they blow right past the screaming Sherpas.
The Sherpa’s are mad as hell that Steck and his team did not obey them AND climbed right passed them. That is when the Sherpa’s said among themselves, “ohhh ok, ok…so those fuckers are gonna pay later tonight in base came. We are gonna give those foreign devils a good old fashioned Sherpa beat down”. That is pretty much what happened later in the day when a group of about 100 Sherpas set upon Steck and his group back in base camp 2. Oh yeah it was great Sherpa fun. There was some pushing and shoving and in fact a bit of rock throwing. Now listen…if a guy was so angry at me he threw a stone at me I’d probably laugh…or at least chuckle, but if a mob of a hundred men were throwing stones at me…well in that case I’d shit myself and that is exactly what Steck and his group did…they shit their fancy sponsor labeled expensive climbing suits. Hey listen…Steck might be the best climber in the world…but those Sherpa’s are some tough mother fuckers. I’m sure the average adolescent male Sherpa could beat Steck’s ass because no doubt Steck’s probably not much of a fighter. So Steck and his team followed the age old adage of “discretion is the better part of valor” and fled the mountain so fast that they left a wake behind them. Click here to watch a classic Monty Python video. My guess is that Steck and his group high tailed it off of the mountain in much the same fashion as the Knights in this clip.
Well…that’s pretty much my take on this little incident. You can click here to read a press release by Steck regarding his near death by Sherpa on Mt. Everest.