If you’ve ever wanted to climb up Mount Everest… things got a bit more complicated.

The Hillary Step, named after Sir Edmund Hillary, the famous explorer who first reached Mount Everest, has reportedly collapsed, likely due to the massive earthquake which hit Nepal in 2015. The step was a nearly vertical rock face, measuring 12 meters in height (39 ft), right under the Everest peak, at 8,790 metres (28,839 ft) above sea level. It’s generally considered to be the last real challenge before reaching the summit via the southeast way.

The step was probably the most challenging and most technical passage on the ascent to Everest, though it could sometimes be bypassed by snow or ice climbing. Falling from the Hillary step would result in a 3,048 m (10,000 ft) drop on the right (when going up) and a 2,438 m (8,000 ft) drop on the left.

It was believed that the step collapsed back in 2015, but there was so much snow and ice that it was impossible to tell what the state of the rocks was. Now, upon inspecting the area, British mountaineer Tim Mosedale wrote on Facebook page:

“It’s official – The Hillary Step is no more. Not sure what’s going to happen when the snow ridge doesn’t form because there’s some huge blocks randomly perched hither and thither which will be quite tricky to negotiate.”

“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 any more,” Mosedale added.

Moseley, who climbed Everest for the sixth time this May, said that this is the end of an era.

“It is associated with the history of Everest, and it is a great shame a piece of mountaineering folklore has disappeared,” he said.

However, despite the huge changes and the uncertainty that this fall brings, there is still a chance that the rock falling might, in fact, make the climb easier.

“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,” Mosedale told the website Planet Mountain.

“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.”

Enjoyed this article? Join 40,000+ subscribers to the ZME Science newsletter. Subscribe now!

Like us on Facebook