Ladder to aid Mt Everest conquerors

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 11:36 28/05/2013
EVEREST HILLARY STEP
Reuters

HARD GOING: Climbers traversing the Hillary Step on Mt Everest.

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On the eve of the 60th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary's Everest triumph, mountaineers have revealed a new insult to the great mountain - a ladder across the Hillary Step.

Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the May 29, 1953 conquering of Everest by Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.

To reach the top, the mountaineers had to climb the last obstacle, a 12-metre rock wall, now called the Hillary Step.

National Geographic last week revealed that climbers doing it now faced a crowded, bad-tempered two and a half hour wait for their turn to reach the summit.

Today the Guardian reports that there are plans to put a ladder up Hillary Step 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.

He told the Guardian most of the traffic jams were because only one person could go up or down at a time.

"If you have people waiting two, three or even four hours that means lots of exposure [to risk]," he said.

"To make the climbing easier, that would be wrong. But this is a safety feature."

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.

Apa Sherpa, who climbed Everest a record 21 times before retiring in 2011, described the Hillary Step as "very hard" and said a ladder was a good idea.

Pertemba Sherpa, who played a key role in the British expedition led by Sir Chris Bonington, which climbed Everest's south-west face for the first time in 1975, told the Guardian that the security of the sherpas working on the mountain should be paramount.

"The route is changing, there is more rock, less ice and snow. It's very dangerous," the 65-year-old said.

"For [the] safety of sherpas, this is good."

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