Low Oxygen Fight Night at the Top of the World

It is extremely difficult for our human bodies to operate in the thin air and low levels of oxygen experienced in high altitude mountain climbing. But that didn’t prevent a near brawl from breaking out at the Mount Everest base camp earlier this month.

“Three European men were involved in a brawl at 24,000 feet when a dispute over climbing procedure turned into a violent, near-death scuffle that raises new questions about the overcrowding of the summit,” Dashiell Bennett writes for The Atlantic. “Local officials are investigating the matter and say it’s the first time they ever heard of such an incident at the world’s biggest mountain.”

Apparently, “a group of Sherpa guides instructed the three climbers not to touch the ropes that the guides were placing on the way to the summit,” The Atlantic continues. “Witnesses say the three Europeans—one Italian, one British, and one Swiss climber—ignored the request and started climbing above them on their own. One of them may have also knocked some ice loose, hitting one of the Sherpas.”

(CNN’s story appears below:)

“Sherpas are a small ethnic group that share many cultural, racial, and linguistic features with Tibetans, who live to their immediate north,” Broughton Coburn of National Geographic explains. “About 3,000 Sherpas reside in the drainage areas immediately below Everest; a population of 20,000 or more live in villages to the south.”

“Mountaineering is their livelihood, and they do it to support their families,” National Geographic continues. “It’s tough, seasonal work—similar to the role of commercial fishing in Alaska … They approach the task with good cheer, and the pay is exceptional by Nepal’s standards (high-altitude Sherpas earn several times the prime minister’s monthly salary).”

Impoverished Sherpa communities are dependent on the international climbing community, local Valley journalist Jonathan Green tells the Advocate. “Wealthy climbers often get winched up, tied in to Sherpas, and basically dragged up the mountain,” says Green, author of Murder in the High Himalaya: Loyalty, Tragedy, and Escape from Tibet (see “Gunshots on the Roof of the World,” Valley Advocate, 9/6/12). “Then [the climbers] go back and make all this money speaking about character and courage.”

“There’s such an income disparity between the Sherpas and these luxury adventures,” continues Green, “there’s bound to be animosity.”

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the first-ever successful summiting of Mount Everest, by British climber Sir Edmund Hilary, and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. Since then, reports The Atlantic, “more than 4,000 climbers have scaled “the top of the world” … [while] at least 220 have died trying.”

Author: Free Sport

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