In the case of the missing Hillary Step, we still are no closer to knowing whether or not the landmark is intact. So far, we have seen that various western mountaineers, including Kenton Cool and Tim Mosedale, claim that the rocky outcrop near the summit of Mount Everest is either completely gone or altered in some way.
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However, Nepalese climbers and authorities claim that the Step is still there, with Ang Tshering Sherpa, President of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, stating that the reason it appeared to be “gone” was that it was covered in snow.
The only thing everyone seems to be able to agree on is the fact that something has made the Hillary Step appear different, whether it’s the piled snow or the effects of the 2015 Everest Earthquake, no one knows for sure.
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But officially, the Hillary Step didn’t disappear, collapse or crumble. Let’s take a closer look at why there is so much confusion.
What Nepal Says About The Hillary Step Disappearance
Nepal is not conceding to the idea that anything has happened to the Hillary Step, at every claim, the Nepalese Government shoots it down by stating that it has sent climbers up to the peak of Everest to check the status of the rocky outcrop and they’ve returned with news that it is intact.
Their explanation for why the area looks more like a slope than a near-vertical climb, which is what the Hillary Step is known for, is that snow has piled so high over the Step that it is impossible to see the step below it.
Why Nepal Won’t Accept the Hillary Step is Gone
We don’t know who is right or wrong, but let’s assume their story is correct – if you can’t see the Step because of the snow, then how are the climbers you’re sending up seeing the Step? How can they tell it is intact if it’s so overcovered in snow?
This apparently hasn’t been a question that has been asked.
The Government’s refusal to state that the Hillary Step has been altered in some way, possibly by the 2015 Everest Earthquake that killed 18 people, has led the public to assume that the reason for this is because they don’t want to lose the country’s second-most revenue-generating landmark, Everest itself being the first.
Nepal’s economy is largely based on mountaineering tourism to the Himalayas, specifically to Everest. Because of this, although the mountain is extremely overcrowded during the climbing seasons, the government still issues massive amounts of climbing permits, each year exceeding the last year’s amount. This year, Nepal awarded 365 permits to members of 39 expeditions. Last year, only 289 permits were issued to members of 34 expeditions.
The need for this revenue seems to overpower everything else, that may include admitting the area’s most sought-after pinnacle is gone.
Would climbers loose the lust for the peak of Everest if the Hillary Step was gone? Highly implausible, but when it’s your only moneymaker, I guess you have to cover all your bases and assume they would.
What Mountaineers Say About The Hillary Step Disappearance
We know that at least two mountaineers have said that the Hillary Step is either gone or altered, Tim Mosedale and Kenton Cool, respectively.
However, in 2016, there were a few reports of an altered Hillary Step that were swept under the rug. In 2015, no one could say if the Hillary Step had been altered due to the earthquake because the climbing season was canceled that year for safety reasons after 18 people were killed in the Khumbu Icefall as a result of the magnitude 7.8 quake.
It would be two years before anyone could compare a before and after of the Hillary Step.
Could Mountaineers Be Wrong About the Hilary Step Being Gone?
Absolutely, climbers can be wrong about the Hillary Step collapse just as much as Nepal can be wrong about it not having collapsed. If there is as much snow as the Government claims, it could just be a matter of appearance.
A few other things could affect a climbers judgment, high-altitude sickness for one. You don’t have to be completely hypoxic to not be able to judge distance correctly, think straight or judge whether or not snow is the reason for why a massive rock doesn’t look the same.
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We’re not saying that’s what Tim and Kenton experienced, it’s just a possibility.
Finally, it could just be that these mountaineers are more inclined to write something off if it doesn’t look exactly like they remember. Kenton Cool’s words were, “It didn’t look to me like the Hillary Step of old.”
It could be any number of things, or it could just mean that they are right and the 39 ft. (12 m.) rocky outcrop has fallen off the side of the mountain in a tragic end to mountaineering history. The fact is, we won’t know until the snow clears and someone takes clear images of it and publishes them. At that point, Nepal could say the images had been photoshopped, and if that occurs, then we’ll see you back here for round two of “who thinks what and why.”
SAMITI, RASTRIYA SAMACHAR. “Highest Number of Permits Issued for Mt Everest Ever.”National – The Kathmandu Post. Kantipur Publications Pvt. Ltd., 20 Apr. 2017. Web. 01 June 2017.
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