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Climbers quit expedition after Everest brawl

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A trio of European climbers involved in a high-altitude brawl with Nepalese guides on Mount Everest have cancelled their trip and and are to return from the Himalayas, climbing sources said Tuesday.

Famed mountaineers Ueli Steck of Switzerland and Simone Moro of Italy, accompanied by British alpine photographer Jonathan Griffith, claimed they were attacked by an "out-of-control mob" on Saturday.

An American eyewitness told AFP the Europeans had ignored a request from Nepalese guides to wait during their ascent, and dislodged ice that hit the Sherpas below, sparking a "terrifying" clash at 6,500 metres (21,300 ft).

"The three are planning to return to Kathmandu on Wednesday," Mingma Sherpa of Cho-Oyu Trekking, the company that organised the Europeans' expedition, told AFP, adding they would likely travel by helicopter.

Moro told PlanetMountain, a mountaineering website, that the "violence killed our climbing dream".

"We also received an official apology from all the Sherpa," Moro told the website, adding that hundreds of summit hopefuls camped on the mountain were all "shocked and aware" of the violence that took place.

A mediation meeting between the European climbers and the Sherpas concluded successfully on Monday afternoon, according to a Nepalese government official.

An agreement signed by over a dozen foreign and Nepalese climbers at the meeting and seen by AFP said the parties "commit not to go into conflict or use violence" and that such violence has no place in mountaineering.

Moro had been attempting to scale the 8,848-metre (29,029-foot) mountain for the fifth time by a new "undisclosed" route without supplementary oxygen.

In a statement released on Monday, the Italian said it was "highly unlikely" that any ice had fallen and hit the Nepalese Sherpas as a result of his team's manouevres.

Punches flew in the thin mountain air and a gang of furious Nepalese pelted stones at the Europeans' tents in the Camp Two stopping point, according to the eyewitness and trekking sources who spoke to AFP.

"A small group of Westerners acted as a buffer between the out of control mob and the climbers, and they owe their lives to these brave and selfless people," said Moro's statement.

"The (European) climbers were told that by that night one of them would be dead and the other two they would see to later."

Liz Hawley, an American journalist and renowned Everest historian, told AFP that violent incidents on Everest were "very, very rare".

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130430/climbers-quit-expedition-after-everest-brawl