It was the final obstacle, the 12m of technical climbing up a near vertical rock face that pushed Sir Edmund Hillary to the limit. Once climbed, the way to the summit of Mount Everest lay open.
Now, almost exactly 60 years after the New Zealander and his rope-mate, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, stood on the highest point in the planet, a new plan has been mooted to install a ladder on the famous Hillary Step, as the crucial pitch at 8,839m has been known since it was first ascended. The aim is to ease congestion.
“We are now discussing putting a ladder on the Hillary Step, but it is obviously controversial,” said Dawa Steven Sherpa, who runs commercial expeditions on Everest and is a senior member of the Expedition Operators Association in Nepal.
This year, 520 climbers have reached the summit of Everest. On May 19, about 150 climbed the last 914m of the peak from Camp IV within hours of each other, causing lengthy delays as mountaineers lined up to descend or ascend harder sections.
“Most of the traffic jams are at the Hillary Step because only one person can go up or down. If you have people waiting two, three or even four hours that means lots of exposure [to risk]. To make the climbing easier, that would be wrong. But this is a safety feature,” said Sherpa, who co-ordinates the work to prepare the traditional route up the mountain for clients who pay between US$45,000 and US$75,000.
The plan has received some support from the world’s mountaineering authorities.
Frits Vrijlandt, the president of the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation, said the ladder could be a solution to the increasing numbers of climbers on the mountain.
“It’s for the way down, so it won’t change the climb,” Vrijlandt told the Guardian.
It is unlikely, however, that tired ascending climbers close to their ultimate goal will spurn such an obvious aid at such an altitude.
There are also plans to introduce more rigorous traffic controls on the so-called fixed ropes, which run almost from base camp to the summit and are fixed by specialist sherpas. One rope for climbers on the way up and one for those descending are to be installed.
Though such innovations are anathema to many purist climbers, they are welcomed by some Sherpas. Paid around US$7,000 for guiding a client to the summit, the Sherpas are regular casualties on the mountain. Nine people have died on Everest this year, including two veteran Sherpas.
Many Sherpas and other Nepalis want to develop the industry of guiding clients to the top with minimal risk to all involved, while many mountaineers want to preserve Everest as a climbing challenge that demands a significant level of experience, technical competence and acceptance of risk.
In related news, two climbers, a 67-year-old Japanese woman and a Spanish man, 50, and their guide have died on Mount Dhaulagiri, expedition organizers said yesterday.
Chizuko Kono from Japan, Spain’s Juanjo Garra and guide Dawa Sherpa went missing on Friday as they attempted to climb the world’s seventh-highest peak.
Garra slipped and broke his ankle, organizers said, but it was not immediately clear what happened to Kono and Dawa Sherpa.
The trio, who were part of a larger group of 21 climbers, were confirmed dead yesterday.
Additional reporting by AFP
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
An Italian alpine resort on Friday remained on high alert over fears that a vast chunk of a glacier on the slopes of the Mont Blanc massif could plummet in high temperatures. “No one gets through! No cars, bikes or pedestrians,” was the message at a checkpoint where an automatic barrier and two guards blocked the small road snaking up into a lush valley below the Planpincieux glacier, near the town of Courmayeur and the Italian-French border. The blockade has largely been greeted with contempt by the locals, one of whom said: “It’s a joke.” The huge ice block measuring around 500,000 cubic