Mount Everest's famous Hillary Step has collapsed

A famous feature near the summit of Mount Everest, known as the Hillary Step, has collapsed, potentially making the world's highest peak even more unsafe for climbers.

The Hillary Step may have collapsed after Nepal's devastating 2015 quake, mountaineers said.

"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", Mosedale wrote on Facebook.

The destruction of the Hillary Step could make the ascent easier since climbers will no longer face a vertical rock climb.

"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", Mr Mosedale wrote on Facebook.

Pictures from May 2016 taken by the American Himalayan Foundation appeared to show a change in the shape of the ridge and outcrop.

The Sherpa Tenzing Norgay holds aloft the ice axe which he and Sir Edmund Hillary used when they became the first people to successfully climb Mount Everest. Now, as Mosedale says, "In the current state it would be hard to safely negotiate down where the step used to be on account of the huge unstable rocks that are perched on the route".

That is what British mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington told the BBC in an interview in 2012.

The Step no longer requires climbing equipment and is now a leisurely stroll through thick snow to the summit.

Despite the quake occurring almost two years ago, and Mosedale having climbed Everest last year, he admitted it wasn't clear at the time as the area was covered in snow - with him only being able to verify that it had vanished when climbing the mountain this year.

"It could well just be gravity, but I would suspect the quake was the cause", BBC quoted Mosedale as saying.

Speaking to website Planet Mountain, Mr Mosedale said: "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".

That would be a serious worry for those already battling low oxygen and frostbite conditions at the top of the world.

The Hillary Step was a bottleneck where climbers had to ascend and descend with the help of ropes.

  • Salvatore Jensen