Car-dealership owner sues mountaineering club over disputed Everest ascent
DENVER ” A car-dealership owner from Alberta, Canada, has filed a lawsuit seeking to remove a footnote that calls into question his May 2000 Mount Everest ascent.
Byron Smith, who said he doesn’t have photographic evidence of himself atop the 29,035-foot summit partly because he was busy preparing to feed live audio to a Canadian Broadcasting Corp. audience, wants the tag “disputed” removed from a list of Everest ascents published by Golden-based American Alpine Club. He filed his lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Monday.
Smith says the actions of the club, a well-respected authority in mountaineering circles, have called his honesty into question and defamed him. In an interview with The Denver Post, he said he has lost car sales because of the controversy.
“It’s very disturbing to me,” said Smith, 46, who also is a motivational speaker. “I’m trying to take the high road here.”
The club did not immediately respond to an e-mail sent by The Associated Press or for request for comment by the Post. In a written response to the lawsuit filed in court, the club said the statements contained in the database are an accurate report of facts gathered by others.
Smith’s claim of reaching the summit ” documented in “The Himalayan Database” ” is disputed by some who question the speed which Smith said he ascended and descended a short, difficult, segment beneath the crest, as well as details of the expedition’s final push.
In his lawsuit, Smith said one of those questioning his claim is Tim Rippel, a professional mountain guide and member of the expedition who did not reach the summit.
An e-mail sent by the Post to Rippel’s mountaineering business was answered by his wife, who declined to comment.
“There’s a lot of petty jealousies,” Smith said. “He’s never summited.”
Smith said he doesn’t have photographic proof or video from atop Everest because he was battling 100 mph winds, was using the radio to contact others in the expedition and was trying to set up equipment to link with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
“I was concentrating on a few other things at the moment,” Smith said.
His Web site says: “Severe high winds on the day of Byron Smith’s summit prevented him from taking video from the top and several still cameras were not functioning.”
Smith said one Sherpa on the team may have taken photos and he was trying to reach him to get copies, but he said they may never be produced.
Smith said he’s provided the club with affidavits from accompanying Sherpas, native people renowned as expert guides on Himalayan mountaineering expeditions.
“I can assure that Byron Smith did summit Everest before me on the morning of May 21, 2000,” an affidavit provided to the Post and signed by Mingma Sherpa stated. “He is one of the strong climbers and he actually did not ask for the help during the summit. As stated here, me and six other Sherpas witnessed Byron’s summit.”
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