MOUNTAINEERING -- An American female climber who's climbed Mount Everest four times is getting a big share of the credit for saving three British climbers confronted on Everest by an angry mob.
British climber-photographer Jon Griffith told The Guardian he had to flee with two companions fearing the "mob" would stone them to death as "years of frustration" boiled over in what he calls a misunderstanding over use of routes prepared by the Sherpa guides.
Speaking from Lukla, the town that acts as gateway to the Everest region, Jon Griffith told the Guardian of the moment when a group of up to 100 Sherpas confronted them about an argument higher up the mountain. "It was obvious there would be no talking or negotiation," he said. "They crested the ridge of moraine above our tent. They had pulled their scarves over their faces and instantly bent down to pick up rocks."
Griffith said that without the bravery of half a dozen other climbers at Camp 2, he and his two partners – the Swiss alpinist Ueli Steck and the Italian Simone Moro – would have been killed in the incident on Saturday. He praised the American climber Melissa Arnot, the only woman to have climbed Everest four times, who warned them an attack was imminent.
He said: "Melissa was a real heroine. She saved Ueli's life. Without her, he'd be dead. She explained to us in our tent that there was a big mob out looking for us. She said something terrible must have happened. We explained that words had been exchanged but that was it. She stepped out of the tent for a moment and then shouted: 'They're coming, get out of here.'"
Steck, the renowned Swiss climber who's set records for climbing the Eiger and other peaks, said his "trust is broken" and he'll "never return to Everest," in this interview with SwissInfo.com.
Outside magazine's site makes the point that early reports about incidents on Mount Everest "are often murky or incorrect when first filed." However, Steck's interview is riveting.
The Nepali Times calls it "the highest brawl in world history," as well as evidence of a culture clash.
The AFP says a meeting between some of the climbers and the Nepalese guides may have cleared the air Monday.
ABC News is airing this TV report and interview with Arnot tonight.
National Public Radio is airing this interview with Griffith today.