Everest Operators: Put Ladder on Hillary Step

UIAA President backs plan

Adam Roy

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A Nepali climbing trade group’s plan to place a ladder on Everest’s HIllary Step has won support from the president of a key international climbing organization, as well as from Sherpas concerned about congestion on the world’s highest mountain.

The Step, a 40-foot rock wall, is usually climbed using fixed ropes, and is one of the route’s most notorious bottlenecks, with mountaineers often waiting hours for their turn at almost 29,000 feet. Dawa Steven Sherpa, a member of the Expedition Operators Association, said that the ladder would be a “safety feature”.

“Most of the traffic jams are at the Hillary Step because only one person can go up or down,” he told the Guardian. “If you have people waiting two, three, or even four hours that means lots of exposure [to risk].”

Among the plan’s supporters is Apa Sherpa, the Nepali climber who holds the record for most ascents of Everest with 21 summits. Frits Vrijlandt, the president of the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation, also backed the plan, but cautioned a conference in the Himalayan town of Khumjung that Nepali authorities also needed to more carefully vet prospective Everest climbers.

“I have witnessed people on the mountain with hardly any experience at all, people who only know ice by the ice cubes in their drink,” Vrijlandt said.

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