Hillary Step is located on the Southeast Ridge of Mount Everest. It is a prominent rock face stretching up to 12 meters (40 feet) near the summit of the world’s highest peak. This famous section of Everest sits 8,790 meters (28,839 ft) above sea level and is approximately halfway between the “South Summit” and the Everest Summit. Hillary Step was one of Everest’s most difficult parts, which would test the mountaineer’s physical and mountaineering abilities. However, after a massive earthquake hit Nepal in 2015, it is now gone.
The Historical Significance
Hillary Step was named after Sir Edmund Hillary, the first mountaineer to reach Mount Everest. The first ascent to the top of Mount Everest opened the way for mountaineers to climb the peak and learn about the existing challenges. And Hillary Step was one of those challenges.
The first assault party of Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans discovered Hillary Step in 1953 before Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa scaled Everest. Their expedition was initiated on May 26, three days before Hillary and Tenzing’s climbing campaign. Bourdillon and Evans were just 90 meters (300 feet) below the summit; however, the crest of thin ice on the rock and the treacherous landscapes around the section made them challenging to scale Everest successfully. Nevertheless, they had to halt their climb from the Hillary Step.
Later on May 29, 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa reached the Hillary Steps of Mount Everest. Reports claim they used the leftover oxygen supplements from Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans, which boosted their climb. Eventually, they conquered the tallest peak in the world on that day.
Everest’s Hillary Step Is Collapsed | What Happened?
The notion of Everest’s Hillary Steps collapse came in May 2017. The British mountaineers stated that the famous rocky bulge near the peak of Mount Everest is no more. With this, the climb to the summit of Everest had been looked to be more challenging than before. Many believe that the massive earthquake of 2015 destroyed the Hillary Step; however, it is still unknown regarding the cause of its collapse.
Everest’s Hillary Step sat on the southeast ridge of the mountain. The 12-meter-high rocky outcrop was one of the popular sections of Everest amongst Death Valley, The Balcony, and others. Several speculations from before had reached out to the global media regarding the collapse of Hillary Steps. However, there was no solid proof to back up these claims. Mostly, these rumors came from the climbers from previous expeditions. However, the thick ice sheet made it difficult to confirm.
Concerning the fact, a British mountaineer Tim Mosedale, mentioned, ‘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 not there anymore.’
The rumors of Hillary Step’s collapse started circulating after the American Himalayan Foundation posted the photos in 2016. However, nothing could verify whether it was legit since the snow cover was thick.
Mosedale posted images of the remains of Hillary Steps when returning to Base Camp after he successfully scaled Everest on May 16, 2017. These pictures emitted significant changes in the topography of Hillary Step comparatively. The possible collapse of Hillary Step meant a potential threat to climbing as well. Since the huge chunk of snow was destroyed, the route was reportedly more steep and dangerous.
Nepalese Mountaineers Denied The Rumors
Despite the long rumors and stories about Hillary Step’s destruction, Nepalese mountaineers denied the reports. Concerning the speculations, they cited that Hillary Step was covered in snow but intact. The former chairman of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, Ang Chiring Sherpa, denied Mosedale’s claims and mentioned that The Hillary Step is in its old position. He told the Associated Press, ‘[It is] intact, except that there are lots more snow on it, so the rock portion is not easily visible.’
Similarly, another climber, Pasang Tenzing Sherpa, backed up the denials stating that mountaineers might have been confused regarding Hillary Step since mountaineers’ marking of the new route had approached it from another side. From there, we cannot see the famous section of Mount Everest. Besides, many other climbers, including Lila Basnet, also mentioned that the land topography had not changed from the past.
Nevertheless 2017, a research team under Lhakpa Rangdu gathered some images of how the 2015 Earthquake impacted Everest. Lhakpa launched an exhibition of a photo gallery from Everest at the Nepal Tourism Board, stating that Hillary Step had indeed been destroyed.
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Difficulty Level of Hillary Step Before And After
— Everest Today (@EverestToday) June 13, 2017
Hillary Step before and after has a drastic change over its land topography and presence. The difficulty level of this section of Everest is even more challenging than before. Since it is said that the 2015’s earthquake destroyed the map of the rocky outcrop, it has become more complicated to climb Everest than before. There are no areas to lean around or take support of while making the final push summit. It is too dangerous and even life-threatening, and the climb is almost impossible without proper gear and resources.
But this does not mean that Hillary Steps was easy to summit before its collapse. It was equally challenging and risky to make the ascent to this section and push to the final summit. The rocky outcrop comprised a thin crest of snow and ice on a rock, steep on the left, overhanging as a cornice on the right. It was a matter of life and death for the team of Tom Bourdillon and Edmund Hillary when they ascended to Hillary Steps of Mount Everest. And although commercial mountaineering had developed significantly throughout the years and decades, Hillary Steps still posed great risk while climbing Mount Everest.
Safety Tips for Climbing Hillary Steps
Hillary Step was not an easy feat to climb. It always posed a great danger to mountaineers while climbing Everest, so safety measures were highly recommended to undertake for the expedition. Here are some of the safety tips for climbing Hillary Steps of Mount Everest:
Physical Fitness and Acclimatization:
Hillary Steps of Mount Everest lies 8,790 meters above sea level, so reaching here from the Base Camp requires a high level of physical fitness and strength. It nearly takes six to ten weeks to complete the Everest Expedition. So we can imagine and calculate the requirements of physical fitness to embark on such a long journey through Nepal’s remote and most treacherous routes.
Physical strength, stamina, endurance, and energy are highly suggested as it is physically demanding. To get through these, acclimatization is the major solution. Gradual ascent is the main thing to work on. Similarly, hydration, nutrition, and staying warm are on the priority list to acclimatize and adjust to the existing altitude.
Acknowledge Weather and Climate Conditions
The weather and climate conditions of the Everest Region are unpredictable and dynamic. It can change within a matter of seconds, so extreme weather is what we can expect here. Mountaineers should review the weather forecast and plan their climbing strategy accordingly. Extreme weather can lead to several hazards like avalanches, strong winds, freezing temperatures, altitude sickness, and frostbite. So climbers should be very careful while embarking on this journey.
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Preparation With Gear and Equipment
Everest’s Hillary Step is technically challenging part. To climb through it and make the final summit push, climbers must have technical skills and mountaineering experience. Skill sets like using climbing ropes, ice axes, crampons, and gaiters are very important for this. But before that, mountaineers should prepare the essential gear and equipment for the expedition. Here are the lists of required items:
- Base layers (thermal tops and bottoms)
- Insulated jacket
- Down or synthetic-filled parka
- Waterproof and breathable shell jacket and pants
- Fleece or softshell pants
- Warm gloves, socks, and hats
- Mountaineering boots (insulated and crampon-compatible)
- Crampons (compatible with boots)
- Ice axe
- Climbing harness
- Climbing ropes
- Ascenders and descenders
- Prusik cords
- Ice screws (for fixing ropes on ice)
- Expedition tent
- Sleeping bag (rated for extreme cold)
- Sleeping pad or mattress
- Lightweight stove and fuel
- Cooking utensils
- High-altitude stove system (for higher camps)
- Melting and boiling pots
- Food and hydration supplies
- GPS device
- Climbing helmet
- Avalanche transceiver (beacon)
- Snow shovel
- Avalanche probe
- Headlamp with extra batteries
- Sunglasses (with UV protection)
- Sunscreen (high SPF)
- Lip balm
- First aid kit (including altitude sickness medication)
- Water bottles or hydration system
- Toiletries and personal hygiene items
- Trekking poles
- Duffel bags or backpacks (for gear transportation)
Communication and Safety Equipment:
- Satellite phone or communication device
- Two-way radios
- Portable solar charger
- Multi-tool or knife
- Emergency shelter (bivy sack or emergency tent)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is Hillary Step?
Hillary Step is a 12-meter-long rocky outcrop at 8,790 meters (28,839 ft) above sea level.
Why was it called ‘The Hillary Steps of Mount Everest?’
It was called the Hillary Steps after Sir Edmund Hillary successfully scaled Mount Everest on May 29, 1953, alongside Tenzing Norgay Sherpa.
How difficult is the Hillary Step?
Hillary Step is one of the most challenging sections on Everest. It comprises technical and physical challenges fueled by extreme weather, high altitude, and treacherous landscapes.
Are there fixed ropes on the Hillary Step?
The professional guides and mountaineers set fixed ropes on the Hillary Step. It would make the climb more efficient and accessible.
Has the Hillary Step changed over the years?
Reports have claimed that Hillary Steps’ map has been changed due to the 2015 Earthquake in Nepal. It is considered this section is destroyed now, making it more challenging to reach the top of Mount Everest.