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'Easy Mode' comes to Mt. Everest, ladder to be installed

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 28th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

There are lines everywhere. Lines at Disneyland, lines at the grocery store, there is even a line to get down off Mt. Everest. Yes, that's correct, there's a line to go back down the tallest peak in the world.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Climbing Mt. Everest is a tough challenge, one that many people spend years preparing for. However, as more people add climbing Everest to their bucket list, they run into a tricky problem - how to get down safely.

About 150 climbers reach the peak now, on a good day, and they need to get back down. As climbers accumulate at the top, they often struggle to get back down, making it more dangerous for the last climbers to leave the peak before it gets too dark. Officials feel the need to hasten the process of getting down.

Even on high Mt. Everest, there's evidence of global warming. The mountain is losing more of its ice cap and exposing more rock face, which is sheer and dangerous.

To help climbers get safely off the mountain, officials are considering the installation of a ladder that would quickly help them down 40 feet of nearly vertical rock exposed by melted ice. That bit of rock face is known as the "Hillary Step" and may be the most difficult portion of the climb.

Still, climbers would not be able to use the ladder for the ascent, only for climbing down. Like all good mountaineers, they would be on their own for reaching the summit.

However, the ladder would provide greater speed and safety for people coming down and would prevent accidents. Accidents on the mountain can still be fatal. At 29,000 feet, Mt. Everest is so high that helicopters cannot (yet) land on the summit. There is no fast way off the mountain and injured people must either suffer down the mountain or perish.

Sherpas who frequently assist others in climbing the mountain say the latter will be a welcome addition. They appreciate the safety it will provide, but they do agree that climbers will have to make it up the Hillary Step on their own.

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