The 39-foot feature—which sits just 200 feet below the summit of the world’s tallest peak and was first used to summit the mountain by its namesake Sir Edmund Hillary and his guide Sir Tenzing Norgay—is believed to have been removed from its post by a violent earthquake that occurred in 2015.
“The boulder formally know as the Hillary Step is gone,” Madison told Outside. “It’s pretty obvious that the boulder fell off and has been replaced by snow. You can see some of the rocks below it that were there before, but the gigantic boulder is missing now.”
Rumors of wether or not the Hillary Step had been damaged or completely removed during the 2015 earthquake have been swirling since last year when Everest Mountaineer Tim Mosdale posted a photo to Twitter (shown above) with a caption claiming that the step was “no more.” But soon after Mosdale’s tweet, the Nepali government disputed his claim, telling CNN it was nothing more than a “false rumor.”
The back and forth left mountaineers and Everest enthusiasts perplexed, but the recent eye witness accounts from Madison and Jones seem to have quelled much of the confusion and speculation within the community.
According to Madison, the absence of the Hillary Step will actually grant mountaineers easier access to the 29,029-foot summit of Mount Everest.
“Now, instead of the Hillary Step, you have some snow steps on a 45-degree angle,” Madison told Outside. “And it actually makes the climbing much easier because instead of ascending this pure vertical rock face, it’s just walking up some snow steps with a fixed line.”