Melissa Arnot

Going Forward

Going Forward

I cannot recount the events of this past week on Everest, nor do I want to. I understand that people want to hear the story and know the details, but, honestly, the details are sad and they are in the past. They cannot be changed. Everyone will have their version of what happened and why it happened. I, too, have my own version. I came here to climb Mt. Everest. I came here for the challenge, adventure and type of friendship that has become a mark of this place for me. On this expedition, I have had some of the best times of my life, laughing into the late hours with friends who were supporting each other’s goals. I have had some of the worst times — standing in front of those same friends to protect them from unexplainable violence and anger.  Something shifted the balance for a moment. My only hope is that it shifts back quickly, and everyone can resume their jobs, their passion and their goal of climbing. I am resting now, both my body and my mind, in hopes that I can resume the reason I came here. I am thankful for the good moments that have occurred this year. I am sad for the events of the last week. I am hopeful that the adventure ahead will be one of collaboration, support and rebuilding the relationship of trust between everyone who has chosen to be here.

32 comments on “Going Forward
  1. new fan on said:

    reading up on the incident, it seems like you and a couple of other individuals are the only ones who can actually look back at it and not be ashamed of your actions. i’ve always looked at mountaineering (as well as other human vs nature type challenges) as something that brings out the best in people and their relations with fellow humans. the dangers, the odds, the difficulty, being at the mercy of fortune and the realization that there is no one to help you but the few people around you and no one to help them but you – it all makes people do some very selfless and very heroic things that are truly inspirational and uplifting – things that you rarely see back in the “civilized world”. unsurprisingly, the friendships forged in such circumstances are some of the tightest bonds possible.
    regardless of what anyone else did on that day, it is refreshing to see that some were able to live up to this (maybe somewhat romantic) vision. melissa, it may be hard and demoralizing for you to be forced to go through such an experience, but consider that your own actions have done much to counter that very damage. yes, some people found a way to get into a terrible mess in a place where people should instead support each other like nowhere else, some grouped into a mob and attempted apparently to lynch a handful of people, some stood by and watched or failed to stand up for themselves. but some didn’t. and succeeded in preventing terrible a tragedy. and rescued what would have otherwise been one of the darkest chapters in the history of mountaineering. in my book that deserves a standing ovation. best of luck to you on that hill and rock on.

  2. dave ward on said:

    Well worded piece. i wish everyone a safe and successful journey this season. the climb is hard enough as it is. this is a distraction no-one needs, but unfortunately,i think most that have followed the seasons could have correctly forecast an event of this nature. 20 outfitters, hundreds of climbers, many inexperienced, and hundreds more fun the sherpa community, all vying to get their clients to the top in the same weather forecasted conditions that everyone has access to now creates an environment for disaster. it’s no coincidence that deaths are increasing the last half dozen years, even in the face of better technology and equipment. be safe.

  3. Alex Blanos on said:

    The arrogance of many western travellers and tourists (with their flashy expedition garments, high tech equipment and attitude) is probably the flash point, which has built up over time and at some point has become insufferable. Some teams show respect and deference to the local cultures, but for other teams, it’s a “outta my way, see ya at the summit” attitude that must piss off the Nepalese greatly. All participants need to look in themselves and examine whether their spoken or unspoken attitudes are contributing to the conflict.

  4. max on said:

    Hi Melissa

    thanks for this blog, a really personal and original approach to climber’s blog.

    And a big thank you for what you have done a few days ago, mainly at camp 2.

    I think I understand a bit how you feel now, and the fact you want to put this behind you. I respect the decision not to talk about this anymore, at least here and now. Of course you’ve done so much already (I doubt I would have had the same courage being at your place, to be honest), and you certainly don’t owe anything to the simple readers such as myself.

    On the other side, it is also true that one voice speaking the truth is worth a hundred speaking personal opinons based on hearsay, or manipulated half-truths, or plain lies. Simone an Ueli’s voices out there, since they are the persons involved, are sometimes, by someone, not considered valuable as those of other witnesses. They couldn’t be.
    Just as the balance shifted to the wrong side up there and you and some others were able to shift it to the safe side again, in the same way the public perception of what happened – and therefore what should be done to prevent this from happening again – is somewhat in a precarious balance.

    Just think, by the way, if you weren’t there and didn’t take action (you and some others), where we would everybody be now? How would the situation be for all climbers, organizers and sherpas? Jobs, passions, goals… they all need a safe environment in order to be pursued. If it’s possible to go back to climbing ( for all people except for three), it’s thanks to you and others who have made a difference, in the first place. (And of course it’s also thanks to what everybody has done and said the following day at base camp.)

    Ok, enough said. Just a big thank you, and I wish you a great climbing experience.

  5. Melissa. Myself and all those I’ve climbed with since these very sad events have nothing but admiration for you and the other brave few who helped calm the situation down. It’s inspirational that there are people like yourself able to show the best of themselves in times of strife, when others are showing the worst of themselves.

  6. Steven Chiu on said:

    I, too, respect Melissa’s silence on how she came to mediate and end the dispute – but I think it is important to separate the confrontation from the events that caused the confrontation.

    It would seem that sherpas and those who are visiting Everest have both agreed that this incident needs to be discussed to prevent anything like this from ever happening again. Alan Arnette has a good account from the sherpa point of view.

    http://www.alanarnette.com/blog/2013/04/30/everest-2013-the-sherpas-viewpoint/

    • Michael on said:

      Well said Steven: “we need to separate the confrontation from the events that caused the confrontation.”

      I would also applaud Melissa’s bravery and respect her right to put the past behind her.

  7. Matt on said:

    From all accounts you helped save the lives of three people. I see some other posters on here debating the broader issue, wanting to know what happened, etc.

    You helped save the lives of three people.

    Nothing else matters to me – good on you for that.

  8. Melissa on said:

    Thank you all for your kind words and support. At this point, I’m not prepared to delve into a discussion about what happened several days ago. Both Ueli and Simone provided a first-hand account of what occurred, both to media and on their respective blogs. My focus at that moment was to prevent further violence, my focus now is on climbing.

  9. As a journalist covering this story, I am disappointed that Melissa is unwilling to share more details, but as her friend I respect and defend her right to put it in the past. She neither started nor contributed to the conflict on the mountain, and sharing what she witnessed will have no bearing on the actions of climbers in the future. The issues that need to be addressed here have to do with macro-climate of commercial vs. non-commercial climbing, western and Nepali relationships, and egos — none of which will be resolved or even illuminated by knowing who said what to whom in the heat of the moment. At some point, the desire to know more becomes voyeurism, and I think she should be applauded for saying no.

    • Steve –

      She doesn’t know what was said. She was only present at the time the Sherpas began to attack the three European climbers. She’s friends with the three climbers, so she’ll side more with them. From your comment, you sound like you know what happened. These three were showing off a bit – whether intentional or not – it irritated and pissed off the Sherpas who were there being paid to do a job. Simone said that the three had climbed in a couple of hours what took the Sherpas half a day – so was continuing with his arrogance in his comments to the media. The Sherpas declined their offer of help to fix the ropes, but the three fixed them anyway. Again – arrogance, while also endangering lives because the Sherpas probably did not know who the men were, and are responsible for placing the ropes for 100s of commercial climbers. If anything goes wrong with the ropes, it’s the Sherpas livelihood, besides being potentially responsible for injury or death of a climber.

      Regardless – the Sherpas were absolutely wrong in the end to resort to violence, no matter how irritated and pissed off they were at the climbers who were being arrogant, disrespectful, while also putting others in potential harm (1. fixing ropes that had nothing to do with their expedition and 2. climbing fast and above the Sherpas doing a job – potential ice fall or avalanche? who knows.)

  10. Michael Pollak on said:

    Melissa, you are an amazing person. To your other accomplishments you can now add, “Peacemaker.” I can only imagine how exhausting emotionally and physically it must have been for you to step in and defuse things. Your role — and Moro gave you first credit — may end up being as well-remembered as your summits. You have a right to your privacy. Good luck getting back to the business of the climb. I hope you will relax and count yetis or something.

  11. Amber on said:

    You are such an inspiration!! So happy to have you as a part of the guide team for First Ascent with Eddie Bauer!! You make us proud @ EB!!

  12. Peter Barr on said:

    Hi Melissa
    There are a lot of “I”s in your posting, Is the posting about you or is it about what happened on Everest, If you do not know what happened then ignorance of the facts is a legitimate response however failure to recognise and analyse events along with dissemination of the facts relegates the event to a black hole (an action not dissimilar to burning books), It happened, It needs to be dealt with in an open forum so that we can all learn & hopefully grow from the knowledge obtained.
    Peter Barr.

    • Mich on said:

      Peter, with all due respect–you are reading Melissa’s comment on the event that occurred on her own website. I feel she is entitled to place as many “I”s as she wishes.
      I believe Melissa’s lack of comments is due to her respect for the investigation taking place.
      From what has been reported in the media, Melissa, you are an inspiration.

  13. ‘Something shifted the balance for a moment’

    Eloquently put and as beautiful a piece of writing as I’ve read about the whole sorry matter. Balance, sadly, is not something that new media exhibits and it’s unfortunate that the accounts of the incident are predominantly Western. I guess the only people who know what happened up there on the Wall are the people who were actually there, and all versions are open to interpretation.

    Here’s to closure and successful climbing.

  14. Melissa, firstly I wish you a great success in your expedition this spring.
    Reading the flip flop sides of stories that is going around in the media. I fell bad that todays generations of the mountain climbers are trying hard to prove that they are the best in the world but that’s not good enough to be a better human being that you can be. Endorsement from big companies and big paycheck is not what you push your goal towards while climbing the mountain. If climbing is in your blood, you have to love the spirit of climbing, the nature of climbing and the culture of climbing. I think the greed of becoming the best in the mountain is not always the solution. Respect for each other is an immense part of any mountain culture. However, we don’t know exactly what happened up in the altitude beside reading the sides of the story through the perception of media. But a true mountaineer should always posses a beautiful heart that is white as the snow in the mountain.

  15. Russell Klak on said:

    I first became a fan of yours because of your accomplishments. I have since become a fan of yours because of what a great person you are. Have a safe climb.

  16. Sonya Wilson on said:

    Hugs to you Melissa and very wise words! I am impressed again and again with how you handle situations. Hang in there.. breath.. I know its hard to see that kind of stuff especially there… take positive rest for yourself and hope it spreads to those others there to create calmness. I hope everyone is able to heal and come together as a team with compassion and respect. Take the quiet time and space that you need to reconnect… hugs I am sorry that you saw that ugliness… it is sad.. sigh.. Hopefully those involved will be able to smooth it out and see clearly with forgiveness, kindness and kindred respect for eachother.. with a common passion for the holy mountain! May the energy and relationships heal and have peace and support for one another. The world does not need to know what happened and we respect your privacy to not talk about it. Everyone needs to get back to supporting, helping eachother and working together not tearing eachother down which in a place like that can be very dangerous!
    Protect yourself and assess whats happening and make choices that keep you and those around you safe..You went Everest with reasons, passion and goals…Be Safe Please..Sending you and everyone there rejuvinating & healing energy…and prayers.
    Your friend Sonya (Deafclimber)

  17. Steve Pargo on said:

    Melissa, it is important for you to share what happened to prevent situations like this from happening again. A lack of understanding between cultures can only be fixed by communication.

  18. Pam Smith on said:

    I am very sorry too, but sometimes revelations help to prevent further misunderstandings in the future.
    I pray that this does not hurt anyone and people can look that in the long run many things are good and that often we must forgive in order to restore.
    Bless you

  19. Jim Daverman on said:

    Well put, Melissa.
    I hope others have your maturity and wisdom. And we trust that you and others will be able to resume your quests.

  20. In Simone Moro’s blog post regarding the recent events he mentioned you as a key moderator and crucial piece in diffusing the situation.
    Its good to know that there are people on the mountain who are not only strong technical assets, but also possess the interpersonal skills to work within the confines of many people, objective hazards, and radically different goals. In a sport driven largely by ego it is comforting to know that there are those among us who can slow down, take a step back, and think rationally.
    Keep doing what you do!

  21. Steve Scott-Fawcett on said:

    To my mind this sad incident was an accident waiting to happen. There are two cultures on the big hill. Western and Sherpa. Ne’er the twain shall meet. Economic necessity has bound the two groups together in a loose co-operative since early 20th C. However, sherpas have grown more wise and wary of perceived Western ‘superiority’. As Nepal (slowly) emerges from poverty to something like economic equilibrium it is quite possible us Westerners will need to pay much greater heed to the simple fact that we are GUESTS on the holy mountain.

    • Little Big Man on said:

      aren’t we all guests on this planet? human first and our respective cultures second. and what is culture if not a cloak of beliefs that may or may not suit us. the intelligent mind can choose right action above and beyond cultural pressures.
      that said, is it economic necessity or opportunity that binds the local residents with outsiders who might love the mountains equally despite being born farther away?
      did a local person living in the Khumbu 100 years ago making a living off the land consider themselves poor?
      that said, few people would be on that mountain if not for the money. very few local men are climbing for the love of it. a lot of the profit in climbing in Nepal goes to the companies that set up the expeditions (keep in mind, if from abroad, they must team up with a Nepal based partner). the suits skim a large proportion off the top, and the Nepal Mountaineering Association takes a big cut (but NMA has a dubious reputation, especially with the funds collected as fees). The govt also takes a big cut (a govt that scores extremely poorly on corruption rankings). What is left goes for expenses and the people doing the actual work. Climbers pay a heavy price that evaporates and leaves little for the people doing the work.
      If their is local resentment at foreigners because of perception in standing or discrepancy in wages, then it would be better directed at the agencies in Kathmandu taking a cut of the unearned pie as well as the NMA and the officials in the government (ie, their own countrymen rather than against the foreigners who have paid a heavy price tag that gets pilfered).
      Misperceptions, cultural misunderstandings, economic necessity: Whether these exists or not, none justifies attempted murder of a guest or local person.

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