MAY 22, 2017 1:22 PM PDT

Has Everest's Hillary Step Disappeared?

There has been some debate around whether the Hillary Step, the 12-meter rocky outcrop that sits 8,790 meters above sea level right before Mount Everest’s peak, has collapsed. Although some Sherpa have denounced the assertion that the Step has disappeared, saying that it is merely hidden beneath snow, several mountaineers are certain that it is gone, having fallen victim to Nepal’s 2015 earthquake.

Source: Popular Keywords

The step was named after New Zealand's Edmund Hillary, who, with local Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, was the first to successfully summit the mountain in 1953.

Last year the American Himalayan Foundation posted pictures that showed a change in the Step’s shape. And this year British mountaineer Tim Mosedale confirmed that change after he summitted on May 16. “It was reported last year, and indeed I climbed it last year, but we weren’t sure for certain that the step had gone because the area was blasted with snow. This year, however, I can report that the chunk of rock named the Hillary Step is definitely not there anymore,” Mosedale said.

British mountaineer Kenton Cool took this photo of the Step last year, he said it looked "different". Photo: Kenton Cool

Many mountaineers see the demise of the Step as a loss of mountain lore, as it was the last obstacle to pass before summiting. "We had always thought of it as the obstacle on the ridge which could well spell defeat," Hillary wrote in his book, High Adventure.

However, it was not only a romantic idea. As more people and more inexperienced mountaineers attempted to climb Everest, the Step also became a dangerous point of human traffic jams. Everest climber Ed Viesturs wrote in the New York Times, "Climbers run out of bottled oxygen and collapse, or they push upward long after a sensible turnaround deadline and end up descending in the dark, or they succumb to hypothermia and frostbite simply because they're forced to stand in place for hours, waiting their turn," he said.

Nevertheless, it is unclear if the absence of the Step will make the ascent easier or more difficult. Mosedale told the website Planet Mountain, “It’s easier going up the snow slope and indeed for inexperienced climbers and mountaineers there’s less ‘climbing’ to be done, making it much easier for them. However, it’s going to form a bottleneck. The Hillary Step often formed a bottleneck but some years ago they fixed an up and a down rope. In the current state, it would be difficult to safely negotiate down where the step used to be on account of the huge unstable rocks that are perched on the route.”

Sources: BBC, The Guardian

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
MAY 07, 2021
Microbiology
How a Microparasite Can Improve Wastewater Treatment
MAY 07, 2021
How a Microparasite Can Improve Wastewater Treatment
There's water all over the world, but only a bit of it - 0.3% - is useful to us, making wastewater treatment an essentia ...
JUN 21, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Extreme urban heat waves: there are more on the way
JUN 21, 2021
Extreme urban heat waves: there are more on the way
A new study published in the journal Nature Communications reports higher projections of extreme urban heat waves than p ...
JUN 28, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Tracking marine microplastics from the sky
JUN 28, 2021
Tracking marine microplastics from the sky
Researchers at the University of Michigan have figured out how to more accurately track microplastics in the ocean using ...
JUL 08, 2021
Earth & The Environment
New System Predicts Future Cod Supplies for Next 10 Years
JUL 08, 2021
New System Predicts Future Cod Supplies for Next 10 Years
Cod stocks in the North Sea and the Barents Sea may be predicted ten years in advance for the first time, thanks to a ne ...
JUL 14, 2021
Earth & The Environment
High-Tide Flooding is Cause for Concern in the US
JUL 14, 2021
High-Tide Flooding is Cause for Concern in the US
High-tide flooding (HTF) is a phenomenon that typically occurs in coastal regions during the highest astronomical tides ...
JUL 29, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Wild Pigs Release as Much CO2 as a Million Cars
JUL 29, 2021
Wild Pigs Release as Much CO2 as a Million Cars
By digging up carbon trapped in the soil, wild pigs release equivalent amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere eve ...
Loading Comments...