Himalaya Spring 2016: Hillary Step Intact After All? A Game of Chess on Annapurna Summit?

1920px Mount Everest

There isn’t a lot of new news to report from the Himalaya today, where a lot of teams are moving up on Everest to get in position to take advantage of a looming weather window. It has already been a busy season on the world’s highest peak, with more to come in the days ahead. But, one of the stories that has been coming off the mountain may not be true after all, despite widespread reports.

Yesterday, I posted the news that the iconic Hillary Step on the South Side of Everest had collapsed during last year’s earthquake, making it easier to approach the summit from the Nepali side of the mountain. But, late last night Alan Arnette posted a comment on that story saying that it isn’t a foregone conclusion that the Hillary Step has indeed been altered.

Alan indicated that he spoke with Sherpas on the mountain – as well as Himex boss  Russell Brice – and the feeling is that the Step may just look very different thanks to a meter of snow that has accumulated on it. It won’t be clear if the route has indeed been changed until that snow is cleared away and climbers can get a good look at the terrain.

The Hillary Step is so named because it was the final piece of the puzzle that Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgayhad to overcome on their way to the first successful summit back in 1953. The route has been used by hundreds of other climbers ever since, and it has been a cause of some traffic jams in the past because it requires some actual technical climbing to overcome. If the Step has been altered and made easier, it could eliminate those jams and make approaching the summit safer. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, Stefan Nestler reports on what has to be the highest chess game ever played. Apparently, climbers Jost Kobusch and Nadav Ben-Yehudi had played at least two games a chess each day in Base Camp on Annapurna while they waited for the summit push. When they finally were able to go to the top a few weeks back, they decided to play a spontaneous game at the 8091 meter (26,545 ft). Actually, they dropped 20 meters below the summit, and played a quick game on Jost’s smartphone. The entire game took just seven minutes to complete, and the winner has not been revealed. As you can imagine, they were in a bit of a hurry to finish up and head back down.

That’s all for today. More news soon as the season continues to move ahead.

Kraig Becker