By Kayleigh Lindemuth
Mount Everest is the world’s highest mountain and no easy feat to conquer. This ascent has taken the lives of many and was once thought to be a prestigious accomplishment achieved by only the best of mountaineers. This accomplishment is not so far out of reach anymore. Today, a majority of people making this ascent do so because they’ve paid a large sum of money for the assistance of commercial guides. Sherpa people are well known for guiding large groups up the mountain and doing all the heavy lifting, relieving the commercial climbers of many of the difficult challenges associated with the ascent. There is great controversy regarding whether the commercial companies adequately compensate the Sherpas for their work and the high risk of death that accompanies it (Sherpas die guiding every year.)
In April 2012, a well-known alpinist named Ueli Steck attempted to beat his prior record of conquering Mount Everest alongside two alpinist companions, Simone Moro and Jonathan Griffin. On the commercial side of things, it was arranged that areas where Sherpas had work to do on the mountain would be undisturbed by climbers. During the ascent of Steck and his companions, they approached an area where a group of Sherpas were fixing rope for the commercial climbers. The Sherpas were clearly unhappy about the alpinists’ presence. It is unclear as to the exact exchange of words or actions at that point, but the resulting altercation is undisputed. After the initial confrontation (which allegedly involved a heated exchange of words, but no physical altercation), Steck and his companions went back down to the last campsite to try to smooth things over with the Sherpas. The three alpinists were approached by a group of about 100 angry Sherpas with their faces covered and rocks in hand. The Sherpas attacked and injured the alpinists, allegedly trying to kill them.
Melissa Arnot intervened in this altercation. Arnot is an American climber with plenty of experience with Mount Everest and the Sherpa people. She claims that she knew that the Sherpa would not harm a woman and that her physical intervention between the two parties was a necessity. The physical altercation eventually ceased, but emotions were still high. A peace agreement was reached, but the alpinists were told that they had to leave and they have not returned to this day.