Authorities in Nepal are investigating reports of a fight between three European climbers and a group of local Sherpa guides at a high altitude on Mount Everest.

The experienced climbers from Britain, Italy and Switzerland were about 2,000 meters below the nearly 9,000-meter summit, when disagreements began between the two sides.

The Sherpas reportedly asked the foreign climbers to wait on the mountain while they rigged up some ropes, but the Europeans ignored them. Then some ice allegedly fell on the Sherpas, making them angry.

Later in the day, a group of Nepalese gathered at the climbers' tents, where a loud argument ensued. The Nepalese allegedly pelted the foreigners with stones, and punches were thrown.

In a statement, the Europeans defended their decision to continue climbing, saying they did not interfere with the Sherpas' work. They also said that despite the fact that ice falling is a natural occurrence during climbing, they were not responsible for knocking any down due to their actions. They also said they are unaware of any Sherpa coming forward to show any injuries.

Sherpas are locals around the world's highest peak who are known for their climbing skills and knowledge of the region. They are responsible for fixing ropes up the mountain and accompany most foreign climbers to the summit.

Climbing Mount Everest is a major tourism draw for the Himalayan country of Nepal. More than 3,000 people have climbed Everest since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay first scaled it in 1953.