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25 May 2017

Nepalese Climbers Dispute Claims of Hillary Step Collapse

A couple of days ago we reported on claims that the iconic Hillary Step, the final hurdle en route to the summit of Mount Everest, had collapsed as a result of a 2015 earthquake, drastically altering the terrain atop the mountain. The claims were asserted to be true by a seemingly reliable source, a British mountaineer by the name of Tim Mosedale who recently reached the peak for the 6th time. However, reports are now coming in from local Nepalese climbers which directly contradict Mosedale’s account; the Hillary Step may in fact remain, obscured from view by snow cover.

Img: Tim Mosedale/Everest Expedition
Mosedale told the Guardian following his climb, “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.” He even provided photographs to back up his claim, and I must admit they do appear to show a definite change in the terrain, as I said at the time.

However the chairman of the Nepalese Mountaineering Association, Ang Tshering Sherpa, is among those making claims to the contrary. He told the Associated Press, “The Hillary Step is in its old position.

“[It is] intact, except that there’s lots more snow on it so the rock portion is not easily visible.”

His assertion is backed up by fellow climber Pasang Tenzing Sherpa, who believes the confusion is likely due to mountaineers marking a new route to the summit, approaching from another side “from where the Hillary Step cannot be seen”.

Pasang, who has plenty of experience with the mountain having reached the summit 11 times, further expanded on how this confusion may have come about. The Guardian quotes him as saying, “Last year, I was the coordinator of the team that opened up the route to the summit. Since there were no climbers on the mountain in two years, it appeared like a new mountain with lots of snow.

“I did not see any marking of the older route. For safety reasons in the Hillary Step, I changed the route a little to the right.

“We decided to follow the ridge rather than traverse or cutting through the section. That is why people are confused. There is a lot of snow and the rock is buried under the snow.”

That would seem to settle the matter then. However with the government of Nepal yet to take an official stance, some uncertainty remains as to the actual state of the Hillary Step. Dinesh Bhattarai, head of Nepal’s tourism department, said of the reports, “We have only heard such information [about the outcrop’s collapse] from news. We have not received any formal report or information.”

Local climber Lila Basnet also joined those asserting that the Step does in fact remain. She said, “It appears there was much more snow in the area but we found nothing wrong with the Hillary Step. This is the fifth time I have climbed Everest and it all appears good.”

Despite the now lengthy list of climbers to dispute his claims, Mosedale stands by his assertion that the Hillary Step has collapsed. I suppose we will simply have to wait for more reports to come in, or a confirmation from the government, before we truly know for sure.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.