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The Hillary Step

By now the first of our climbers should be approaching the Hillary Step. Although it is only about a 40’ rock outcropping, any type of technical rock climbing at such a high altitude, after an exhausting seven or eight hours of climbing, can be pretty daunting. Because many climbers struggle with ascending the fixed ropes at the Step, it is a notorious bottleneck. The picture below shows exactly what the team was been trying hard to avoid: a gaggle of climbers held up by overcrowding at this crux point.

Overcrowding on the Hillary Step in 2012.  Photo from OutsideOnline.

Overcrowding on the Hillary Step in 2012. Photo from OutsideOnline.

Because this has been such an issue as more climbers attempt Everest, the guide companies have done some good deliberate risk management, and this year they have invested the resources in setting a second set of fixed routes, to enable climbers to ascend and descend at the same time. This alleviates the risk of climbers being stuck at the top of the step, breathing precious oxygen and getting cold due to it moving, while they wait for a break in the ascending climbers to rappel down.

Hillary Step Alternate Route.  Photo by IMG guide Michael Hamill.

Throughout this climb, our team has emphasized the principles of risk management, and we applaud the excellent RM mindset applied by the International Mountain Guides team, and other teams on the mountain this year, to manage risks appropriately.

Stay tuned…we hope to hear word from the team in the next hour or two!