Mount Everest Brawl Pits European Climbers Against Sherpas

Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 01:54 PM

By Michael Mullins

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A dispute on Mount Everest between three European mountain climbers and a group of Sherpa tour guides at 24,000 feet turned violent over the weekend, causing a brawl at a base camp.

Traditionally, Sherpas, an ethnic group in eastern Nepal, secure ropes for climbers and designate their climbing paths.

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The disagreement occurred when the three seasoned climbers -- one Italian, one Briton, and one Swiss -- apparently ignored instructions from Sherpas, who say the climbers started climbing above them on their own. One of them may have also knocked some ice loose, hitting one of the Sherpas, the Atlantic reported.

The European climbers dispute this claim, who told local officials that one of the Sherpas rappelled down on top of the Swiss climber, the Alantic reported.

The Swiss climber claims he then "raised his hands above his head to protect himself" from the Sherpa.

The group claims the Sherpa responded by swinging his ice axe in anger and threatening to hurt them.

News travelled fast, and about 100 Sherpas who heard the guides' side of the story greeted the European climbers by pelting their tents with rocks when they returned to the base camp.

Locals reportedly attacked the Europeans by kicking and hitting them, forcing them to flee the area until another group of Westerners intervened. The climbers claim they might have been killed if the other foreign climbers had not stepped in.

It was not reported where the other Westerners came from.

Local officials are investigating the incident, which they say has never happened before on the world's biggest mountain.

Mount Everest expeditions have become increasingly popular. There have been at least 32 this year alone. The increase has led to overcrowding on the mountain during the spring months, which is the most popular time to climb.

Last year, four climbers died on the mountain due to "traffic jams" that caused climbers to slow down and spend more time than they should at dangerous altitudes, the Atlantic Wire reported.

Mount Everest, which runs between China and Nepal, is the Earth's highest mountain at 29,029 feet high.

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