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article imageMt Everest's 'Hillary Step is no more,' mountaineer confirms

By Karen Graham     May 21, 2017 in World
A British mountaineer, Tim Mosedale, has confirmed that a famous rocky outcrop near the peak of Mount Everest, "Hillary's Step," has collapsed, potentially making the climb more dangerous.
The iconic nearly vertical 12 meters (39 foot) rocky outcropping stood on the southeastern ridge of the mountain and was the last great challenge in reaching Everest's summit.
The Hillary Step was named after famed mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary, who along with Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay, became the first two people to climb the mountain and reach the summit in 1953. It is believed the famous step may have been destroyed during the 2015 earthquake that devastated the region, reports The Guardian.
Tenzing and Hillary. Photo from the collection of John Henderson.
Tenzing and Hillary. Photo from the collection of John Henderson.
Photograph uploaded by Dirk Pons, grandson of John Henderson.
There had been rumors
There were rumors coming back from earlier expeditions after the mountain was reopened after the earthquake, but snowy conditions prevented anyone making a confirmation of the loss. Pictures from May 2016 taken by the American Himalayan Foundation appeared to show a change in the shape of the ridge and outcrop.
However, Mosedale, who reached Everest’s summit for the sixth time on May 16, posted a photograph on his Facebook page of the barren spot where the step used to be when he returned to base camp. Speaking to the BBC, he said the loss of the Step was "the end of an era".
Mosedale also spoke with the Guardian, saying he actually became quite emotional when he saw the collapsed step. “It’s a piece of mountaineering history that has disappeared. Even non-mountaineers know the name and the association of the infamous Hillary Step,” he said.
In this photograph taken on April 25  2015  a cloud of snow and debris triggered by an earthquake fl...
In this photograph taken on April 25, 2015, a cloud of snow and debris triggered by an earthquake flies towards Everest Base Camp
Roberto Schmidt, AFP/File
The ramifications of a newly created terrain
Being that the near-vertical climb up the step was the last big challenge, does this now mean the trek will be made easier? Many experienced mountaineers say not necessarily so. Mosedale thinks there are serious concerns about the safety of climbing that section in the future.
Others believe that with the outcrop gone, the slope will be much easier to climb, but even they warn this could create a dangerous bottleneck. This is because, at that elevation, a climber is already starved for oxygen and in near-frostbite conditions. Even with the step in place, it was a dangerous location to get stuck in.
Since the first summit of Everest in 1953 more than 300 people -- most of them locals - have died at...
Since the first summit of Everest in 1953 more than 300 people -- most of them locals - have died attempting to scale Everest and Lhotse, which share the same route until diverting at Camp 3 at 7,200 metres. 
PRAKASH MATHEMA, AFP
In good weather, with the sun out, a two or two-and-a-half hour wait might not be too bad, however, in breaking weather, those two hours or so could end up being a matter of life-or-death. That is what British mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington told the BBC in an interview in 2012.
Now, as Mosedale says, "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.”
More about Mt everest, Hillary Step, 2015 earthquake, sir edmond hillary, change in descent
 
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