Mount Everest climbers are reporting that the Hillary Step, a chunk of rock just below the mountain’s summit, is gone. Named after Edmund Hillary, who made the first successful ascent of Everest in 1953 with Tenzing Norgay, the vertical outcrop was considered the last great hurdle for mountaineers to get over before stepping foot on the summit.
It may have fallen down two years ago, during or just after the large earthquake that rocked Nepal in April 2015. Climbers in 2016 suspected that the step had disappeared or shifted but never confirmed it because of heavy snow. This month, for the first time, climbers could see the change for certain.
Tim Mosedale, an expedition leader from the UK who posted photos confirming the news on Facebook last week, told climbing website Planetmountain.com that the loss of the Hillary Step might make the last few meters of Everest easier for some climbers to cross but that the area will also be trickier to navigate:
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…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.
Speaking to the BBC, Mosedale lamented “the end of an era,” as well. “It is associated with the history of Everest, and it is a great shame a piece of mountaineering folklore has disappeared,” he said.