Exactly what led to a Mount Everest brawl between Sherpas and climbers? Stories conflict, but one of the climbers has provided National Geographic with a firsthand account, and it's a harrowing tale. As previously reported, Simone Moro and two other climbers were trying to get to Camp III when Sherpas fixing ropes nearby told them to turn back. Moro says they told the Sherpas they wouldn't touch their ropes; as they began to climb rope-free, the Sherpas hurled a piece of ice "to scare us," he says. Tensions apparently mounted when the climbers had to cross the rope-fixing team's line; one Sherpa waved an ice ax, Moro says. Screaming and profanities followed, and fellow climber Ueli Steck, in an attempt to get out of the path of the ax, touched the Sherpa, "but just to keep himself from falling."
Things got truly nasty after returning to Camp II, says Moro. "After maybe five minutes, there was around a hundred people, mainly Sherpas, around our tent, and one group of Sherpas started a real attack ... They told us, 'Now we kill you.'" That's when the fighting began. A female American climber, knowing the Sherpas "would never beat a woman" tried to shield the men. It didn't work: Moro says a rock struck Steck's face, a penknife was thrown at his hip, and their group just repeated "sorry, sorry" as the Sherpas kicked and punched them. The skirmish lasted for 50 minutes, Moro says, before climbers made their way downward, "trying to hide." Moro asserts that the Sherpas are "different" this year, noting that the explosion of expeditions to Everest has led to many more hires. Click through for more. (Read more Sherpas stories.)