Everest Update: A Letter From Jon Griffith

by Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor Apr/2013
This news story has been read 36,202 times

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+Jon Griffith on the front cover of The Sun, 149 kb
Jon Griffith on the front cover of The Sun
UKC News, Apr 2013
© The Sun
The Simone Moro, Ueli Steck and Jon Griffith Everest story is in all the national papers. It's big news. Jon Griffith's facebook profile photo is on the front page of The Sun.

We were directly in contact with Jon just after the incident, and we have already published a statement from Griffith, Steck and Moro. We are of course actively seeking alternative reports from other Westerners in the area and in particular the Sherpa community on Everest. We're open to publishing accounts from both sides and hopefully we will have something to publish soon.

We state clearly here that Jon Griffith is a friend of the UKC staff, a UKC gear reviewer, and a familiar face on the UKC forums.

We have been back in contact with Jon, who is still at Everest Base Camp, and Jon told us that he has been following the forums closely and thanked the UKC community for the balanced response to their initial report. He has now written a 'letter to UKC', here it is:

Dear UKC,

We, at Base Camp, have been following the posts made and thank you for your restraint. I realise that it is a one sided argument but this is a very complicated situation. As people have mentioned the Sherpas have a long history of very kind, hard working, pacifists. It is my first time to Nepal but Ueli and Simone have been here for many years. Ueli for example climbed Everest last year with Sherpa Tenji as a climbing partner not as a Sherpa. Sherpa Tenji was booted out from a commercial expedition last year, as it was decided that he wasn't needed, and Ueli offered to climb together with him as Tenji's aim had always been to summit Everest without oxygen. I am also glad to say that Sherpa Tenji was part of our team this year. Simone has done 43 trips to Nepal and his relationship with Sherpas stretches way back. If you talk to Sherpas at Base Camp they having nothing but good things to say about him. He has a rescue helicopter out here and even offers free rescue service to all Sherpas and Porters on the mountain. So I think both Ueli and Simone have a long history of respect and friendship with the Sherpas.

The Press Release is, hand on heart, exactly what happened on the day. I wrote it. But as many have noted the reaction was not because of our actions but because of a deeper rooted problem. I realise that when you see the reaction from the Sherpas that it is natural to think that we did something terrible that we are not saying, but honestly this was not the case. The only reason given from the lead Sherpa was that we knocked ice down but I honestly cannot imagine this happened, the fact that no Sherpa has come forward with any injuries does back us up some what. I accept that our presence on the mountain may have stressed the Sherpas out but statements that we were told not to climb that day are total fabrications. We were asked by a IMG guide to not clip in to the ropes and naturally we did not do so. We kept far away from them when ascending - the Lhotse Face is immense. Please understand that any anonymous eyewitness reports from Camp 2 are ludicrous. The fact that they are anonymous and most importantly that Camp 2 is located miles away from the Lhotse Face makes any 'eyewitness' report a bit unrealistic (I'm a photographer and even my most powerful lenses wouldn't let me see that well). The fact that this anonymous source said we then walked back through Camp is proof of the lies as there was no chance we walked back through Camp. We were shitting ourselves, the idea of walking through Camp was suicidal. We tracked straight over towards Nuptse and headed down an unbelievably crevassed glacier with no tracks and no ropes. At times we were crawling. As dangerous as this was it actually seemed like a haven of safety compared to Camp 2.

+Jon Griffith at home, packing for and excited to go to Everest prior to his trip., 52 kb
Jon Griffith at home, packing for and excited to go to Everest prior to his trip.
UKC News, Apr 2013
© Jon Griffith
I understand that we will all come out of this looking bad. It is natural. But in the end everyone looks bad from this incident. The few bad apples reflect very badly on the Sherpa community and they are very aware of this. The ring leaders are actually about 30 metres away from our camp. There are no police here. But we feel safe because the whole Nepalese Community at Base Camp are outraged by what happened and are acting as the local police. However this is a hugely delicate and complicated problem. We had a ceremony yesterday where we all talked publicly about what happened and that the reaction we incurred from the Sherpas was something that the Commercial Teams and the Everest Community as a whole had to deal with. It was not entirely due to our actions. We were the tip of the iceberg and we have talked with the ring leader about this. As such we are not taking legal action but leaving it in the hands of the community to find a suitable 'disciplinary action' (as they call it). They see this as a very major underlying problem and something that has to be dealt with before it happens again. Simply throwing them in jail will cause a riot, it is important to find the right balance where the Sherpas are able to voice their problems and concerns to the community and the old 'respect' between client and Sherpa and vice versa is re-established. For the moment the Sherpas feel used and that they are not treated with respect by their Western clients.

For us our trip is over. The Nepalese were hoping we would all shake hands and continue with our trip and this will all be swept under the carpet. We didn't really see this as reality. It was the most harrowing experience of our lives and there is no way we feel safe up the mountain anymore. Ueli is a man I have known and climbed with for many years. I have never seen him like this before, and this is a man who doesn't live life in the safety zone. He has lost all trust in the Sherpa community and has barely slept since the incident. I can see in him that part of him has been destroyed and will take a long time to heal.

As a final comment. A very influential character (sorry no names right now) has asked the Ministry of Tourism to have written on every permit that climbers are not allowed to climb before the fixing team. If this happens it means the only way you can climb Everest is by climbing in a nice big track and on fixed lines with tons of people. It also means that any teams who want to climb something (in alpine style) apart from the Normal Route will not be able to acclimatise in advance before their ascent. It is insane, but it shows the attitude towards this mountain.

If any of the above is a bit confusing then please realise that things are pretty manic right now. I've slept very little in the last few days. But I felt it was important to write and answer some of the questions raised by your comments.

Jon Griffith


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