Hmm… a perfect place for a punch up. Image via facebook.
Ueli Steck’s climbing career is littered with ‘firsts’ but it’s highly unlikely that, come retirement, he’ll consider his involvement in the first fist fight to occur at 25,000 feet among his favourites.
Steck, who counts the speed record for climbing the North Face of the Eiger among his achievements, was involved in the altercation last week as his climbing group attempted to pass a group of Sherpas fixing lines between Camps 2 & 3 on the Lhotse face of Mount Everest. According to a statement on his website, the Sherpas became enraged after Steck stepped across lines they were in the process of fixing, accidentally kicking ice onto them. Steck and his fellow climbers, Simone Moro and Jonathan Griffith, insist that they did not interfere or otherwise damage the Sherpa’s work, but after returning to Camp 2, claim that “some 100 Sherpas grouped together and attacked”, punching and kicking them until another group of climbers intervened, allowing them to escape.
Although the three climbers were not part of a commercial expedition, the incident will invariably raise questions about the issues of overcrowding on the mountain and the role of companies who offer ‘package trips’ up Mount Everest to those who can afford it, especially as the peak time for attempting the climb is almost upon us.
Good luck to all those giving it a go this year. Sadly, it appears that Steck, who was acclimatising in preparation for a summit attempt across a new route, will not be among them. According to Sky News, he has returned to Kathmandu and is awaiting a flight home.