The mysterious disappearance of the Hillary Step on Mount Everest is causing worldwide speculation, without good answer.
The sheer, vertical rock face, named after the first mountaineer to scale it in 1953, was the last big challenge before reaching the top of this great mountain, and it was famous for the gruelling demand it placed on climbers, as well as for the protection it provided from adverse weather. The only explanation that has been offered for its loss is that the Step was affected by the 2015 earthquake that killed many mountaineers, but, if so, it is strange that no-one noticed that a prominent 12 metre high cliff has gone until now.
Because only one climber at a time could ascend or descend the Hillary Step, dangerous bottlenecks were caused by the increasing numbers of mountaineers wanting to climb Everest and having to wait their turn, like tourists queuing for the London Eye. Now that it is gone, it is feared that the re-formed route to the summit will be even more treacherous, and that the problem of bottlenecking will worsen, along with the numbers of people wanting to “conquer Everest” – people who then go on to leave behind them mounds of garbage and polluted waterways and soils on what once was honoured, pristine land.
The meaning of the tallest mountain in the world has been forgotten by the trophy hunters. This area in the Himalayas between Nepal and Tibet is believed to be where the greatest gods reside. The mountains, Everest in particular, represent all that is most sacred, places of enlightenment and where the spiritual seeker can connect most easily with the Masters of esoteric wisdom. Everest is the highest and most wonder-ful church on Earth inaccessible, majestic and transformative: it is the place where the Second Buddha will come. The environmental damage from 80 years of intense mountaineering has caused great spiritual damage too, and Everest is starting to say, No.
Many climbers have died on Everest over the years, and many more are likely to do so as conditions worsen; earthquakes occur regularly, but these warnings from the Spirit of Everest have been ignored. Just as Machu Picchu is slowly being reclaimed by the Peruvian mountains because of her dishonouring, so too will the dilemma between limiting access to Everest or encouraging tourism for the money it brings be resolved by the mountain herself.
Everest is in charge of her destiny, and she will determine what happens to her now we have proved to be such poor guardians of one of the most significant spiritual places in the world. What slow learners we are.