It sounds basically insane: Climbers and Sherpas brawling, on Everest, more than 20,000 feet in the air. But that's what allegedly happened near the famed mountain's summit on Saturday morning, reports the Independent. In its telling, some 100 Sherpas surrounded and attacked three European climbers—Jonathan Griffith, Simone Moro, and Ueli Steck—over an apparent breakdown of climbing etiquette. Outside picks up Moro's version of events, as posted on his blog: As the Sherpas were securing ropes leading to Camp III, the climbers stepped across their lines and, in the Sherpas' telling, dislodged ice on them (Moro disagrees with this claim). An argument broke out, and the Sherpas retreated to Camp II; when the climbers, who stayed behind to finish fixing the ropes arrived; they say they were kicked, punched, and had rocks thrown at them.
Moro writes: "After about 50 minutes the crowd had calmed down and the climbers, who had been pushed away and told to hide, had regrouped and were told that if they weren't gone in one hour that they would all be killed." The three returned to base camp, and Reuters reports that Steck has since vowed to end his ascent unless their security was vouched for; a rep for Nepal's Tourism Ministry said the government would indeed ensure their safety. Officials are working to investigate; the Independent sees the brawl as a possible ugly consequence of overcrowding on the mountain. (Read more Mount Everest stories.)