Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - The attack by Sherpas against three European climbers undermines a ten-year relationship between the Nepali "custodians of the Everest" and Western record men. It also raises questions about safety at high altitudes and respect for the mountain. As a result of the attack, which left three people wounded, one seriously, dozens of groups have cancelled their expedition for fear of more incidents.
The case broke out on Sunday during an attempted ascent by two of the world's most famous climbers Ueli Steck, a Swiss with a record Everest ascents, and Simone Moro, an Italian who has made it to the roof of the world four times. The two were accompanied by British photographer John Griffith, and were on their way to Camp 3 at an altitude of 7,200 m.
According to Raj Kumar Shahi, a police officer in charge of the investigation, "the three Europeans apparently broke government safety rules. Photographer Griffith climbed without oxygen tanks and the two experienced climbers disturbed the work of a group of Sherpas who were fixing ropes on the path."
"From the first evidence, it appears that Nepali safety officials had asked the three to get in line and continue the ascent behind them," Shahi told AsiaNews. "Instead, they ignored the order, and went on their way causing some ice to fall."
"This triggered the Nepalis' anger, who once back at base camp attacked the three climbers with rocks and stones, causing bruises and injuries."
In an interview with the site planetmountain.com, Simone Moro said that the Sherpas's behaviour was inexplicable, and that without the intervention of some climbers, the attack could have ended in a tragedy.
For Anish Gupta of Cho-Oyu Trekking, the company that is sponsoring the Europeans' expedition, the incident is very serious and jeopardises the entire climbing season that started a few days ago. "The government should ensure climbers' safety," he said.
At present, more than 2,500 among mountaineers, guides and staff are waiting to climb the highest peak in the world, said Da-Dendi Sherpa, a liaison officer at Everest Base Camp. In all, 29 expedition teams have permission to climb.
Since the first ascent by Edmund Hillary and Tenzin Norgay Sherpa in 1953, more than 3,500 mountaineers have reached the summit of Mount Everest.
Over the years, better technology has given more and more people an opportunity to try to ascend the mountain, increasing the risk of fatal accidents.
In 2012, as many as 11 climbers died on the mountain, eight in the month of May.