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
BA Environmental Studies
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
APR 21, 2022
Chemistry & Physics
The Largest Ever Comet Discovered is Heading our Way
APR 21, 2022
The Largest Ever Comet Discovered is Heading our Way
Think of a snowball mixed with dust and tiny rocks but twice the size of the state of Rhode Island. This space snowball, ...
MAY 10, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Water scarcity predicted to worsen in more than 80% of croplands globally this century
MAY 10, 2022
Water scarcity predicted to worsen in more than 80% of croplands globally this century
Climate change is real and it’s happening literally right before our very eyes. These ongoing, observable effects ...
MAY 12, 2022
Cannabis Sciences
Resources For Growing Your Own Cannabis
MAY 12, 2022
Resources For Growing Your Own Cannabis
Resources for growing your own cannabis at home, including the science behind getting the best grows possible.
JUN 03, 2022
Technology
Neuromorphic memory device simulates neurons and synapses
JUN 03, 2022
Neuromorphic memory device simulates neurons and synapses
Here we go again because science fiction hasn’t taught us anything about robots eventually taking over humanity. I ...
MAY 26, 2022
Technology
New Technology for Electronics Improves Cooling and Reduces Bulkiness
MAY 26, 2022
New Technology for Electronics Improves Cooling and Reduces Bulkiness
One of the biggest issues with electronics is the heat generated by the underlying devices. These devices need to be coo ...
JUN 20, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Could beer yeast be the solution to heavy metal contamination in water?
JUN 20, 2022
Could beer yeast be the solution to heavy metal contamination in water?
Beer is a fantastic way to bring people of all backgrounds together, whether for a night on the town or watching sports. ...
Loading Comments...