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Just 200 feet below the top of Mount Everest used to be a 39-foot column of four large boulders that had to be scaled in order to reach the summit. The top boulder (the largest and most dangerous) was a bottleneck, and climbers often had to wait an hour for others to climb down the one-way path.
It appears that an earthquake in 2015 dislodged the boulder. So now the bottleneck is gone, and climbing the last 200 feet is much easier.
But now that mountaineers like Madison and Jones have returned from the mountain, the consensus is that the Hillary Step is a shell of its former self. “Now, instead of the Hillary Step, you have some snow steps on a 45-degree angle,” Madison says. “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.”
When weather windows make it possible to summit, droves of climbers head up the South Col at once, and the Hillary Step was known for creating a bottleneck anytime there was heavy traffic—a relatively common occurrence in recent years. Hahn, for instance, says that he remembers once standing in line for an hour, waiting for over 100 people to come off the summit before he could climb the step. Madison predicts that, because the main boulder fell, traffic congestion might be more easily mitigated. “It’s actually safer now because you can essentially walk around people and two way traffic is easier.”
So now it appears that Hillary is just a shell of her former self! It is interesting that this change would have taken place in 2015, which was within our window of 2014-2017, regarding the transfer of authority. Hillary herself fell on September 11, 2016, if you recall, and shortly after that, she lost the election.