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Foreign climbers blamed for Everest brawl


A new account of a brawl on Mount Everest which emerged Wednesday said one of the foreign climbers involved had sworn at a group of Nepalese guides and challenged them to a fight.

Famed climbers Ueli Steck of Switzerland and Simone Moro of Italy, accompanied by British alpine photographer Jonathan Griffith, were involved in a bust-up with the Sherpas on Saturday which has shocked the mountaineering community.

The events have overshadowed the climbing season in a year when Nepal is preparing to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the first ascent of the world's highest peak.

Eyewitnesses say the European climbers had ignored a request to wait while the Nepalese Sherpas rigged up ropes on the upper reaches of the mountain, sparking an argument between climbers on the Lhotse ice face.

"Simone began to shout, many of the words in Nepali language, and many of the words were inflammatory," wrote American climber Garrett Madison in an email sent to Outside Magazine.

After this first clash -- when the European climbers say they faced an aggressive Nepalese Sherpa who threatened them with an ice pick -- both sides descended to Camp Two at an altitude of 6,500 metres (21,300 ft).

"At one point Simone stated over open radio frequency... that if the Sherpa had a problem he could come down to Camp Two soon and 'fucking fight'," wrote Madison.

Steck and Moro claimed they were then attacked by an "out-of-control mob" of Sherpas who threatened to kill them and threw stones at their tents.

Madison, and a witness speaking to AFP, said another Western climber not involved in the original argument had actually sparked the fight after he "entangled physically with a Sherpa" during efforts to mediate the argument.

"The events at Camp Two can only be described as sad and unacceptable," said Melissa Arnot, an American mountaineer who told AFP she had helped separate the two fighting parties.

"I think the foreign climbers made the mistakes and the Sherpas made some mistakes in communication," she later told American television channel ABC.

Photographer Griffith, in an interview with Britain's Guardian newspaper, also said Moro had sworn at the Sherpas. He praised Arnot for helping save them from a potentially life-threatening situation.

Nepal is set to to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the first summit of Everest by New Zealand climber Edmund Hillary and his Nepalese guide Tenzing Norgay in May 1953.

The event is to be marked with among other things a commemorative flight around the peak featuring their sons Jamling Norgay and Peter Hillary.

Steck and Griffith returned to Kathmandu on a Wednesday morning flight after aborting their plans to summit Everest by a new "undisclosed" route.

They are planning to meet Nepalese Prime Minister Khilraj Regmi to work on a joint public statement.