Everest’s Hillary Step intact, say climbers

Climbers use ladders to ascend the Nepalese side of Mount Everest. (AFP)
Updated 24 May 2017
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Everest’s Hillary Step intact, say climbers

KATMANDU: The Hillary Step — a rocky outcrop near the top of Mount Everest — is still intact, Nepali climbers said Wednesday, rejecting a widely reported claim by a British mountaineer that it had collapsed.
The condition of the rock face has been the source of intense speculation among the climbing community since six-time Everest summiteer Tim Mosedale declared it had crumbled.
“The Hillary Step is no more,” Mosedale wrote on Facebook the day after he made the top on May 17.
“Not sure what’s going to happen when the snow ridge doesn’t form because there’s some huge blocks randomly perched hither and thither which will be quite tricky to negotiate.”
But experienced Nepali climbers said the rock feature — named after the first climber to summit the world’s highest peak, Sir Edmund Hillary — was unchanged.
“The Hillary Step is as it was before, but a large stone above it has fallen,” said Pemba Dorje Sherpa, who reached the peak last Saturday and has summited on 15 other occasions.
“It was easier to reach the summit because of that, but perhaps that confused people into thinking that the step is no more.”
Nine-time Everest summiteer Mingma Tsiri Sherpa, who runs a climbing company and is currently at base camp, said an alternative route being used by climbers could be leading to confusion.
“The fixed lines are more to the right of the step (than before). We’re now walking on the snow whereas before we had to walk on the rocky side. That is the reason for the confusion.”
Mingma has not climbed Everest this year but nine of his Nepali guides and eight clients have made it to the top.
Questions surrounding the condition of the step — the last major obstacle before the summit — emerged last year, with some suggesting that it had been damaged in the earthquake that hit Nepal in April 2015.
The 7.8-magnitude quake triggered an avalanche that flattened base camp, killing 18, and brought the climbing season to a premature close.
Geologist Amod Mani Dixit, who heads the Katmandu-based National Society for Earthquake Technology, said it was unlikely the earthquake would have shifted rocks on Everest, which stands 450 kilometers (280 miles) east of the epicenter.
Separately, an expedition organizer said Wednesday that rescuers found bodies of four climbers on Everest, taking the season’s death toll to 10 as experts warn cut-price mountaineering outfits are putting clients at risk.
The climbers were found inside a tent at camp four — at 7,950 meters — on Tuesday by a rescue team who were there to retrieve the body of a Slovak climber who died on the mountain on Sunday.


UK court rejects case brought by mother of Daesh 'Beatle' held in Syria

Updated 18 January 2019
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UK court rejects case brought by mother of Daesh 'Beatle' held in Syria

  • El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey are being held by Kurdish militia after being captured in Syria last year
  • United States wants to extradite them and Britain has said it will not stand in the way

LONDON: The mother of one of the British Daesh militants suspected of murdering western hostages, lost a legal challenge on Friday that it was wrong for Britain to assist a US investigation which could lead to them facing the death penalty.
Britons El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey — two of a notorious group of British fighters nicknamed “The Beatles” — are being held by Kurdish militia after being captured in Syria last year.
The United States wants to extradite them and Britain has said it will not stand in the way of any future US prosecution that would seek the death penalty, waiving a long-standing objection to executions.
Elsheikh’s mother, Maha El Gizouli, had sought a judicial review, saying it was unlawful for Britain’s interior minister to provide mutual legal assistance in a case which could lead to prosecutions for offenses which carried the death penalty.
Her lawyers said the minister’s actions were flawed, inconsistent with Britain’s unequivocal opposition to the death penalty and violated her son’s human rights. However, London’s High Court disagreed and dismissed her claim.
“My priority has always been to ensure we deliver justice for the victims’ families and that the individuals suspected of these sickening crimes face prosecution as quickly as possible,” Home Secretary Sajid Javid said.
“Our long-standing opposition to the death penalty has not changed. Any evidence shared with the US in this case must be for the express purpose of progressing a federal prosecution.”
The most notorious of the four of the so-called Beatles was Mohammed Emwazi, known as “Jihadi John,” who is believed to have been killed in a US-British missile strike in 2015.
He became a public face of Daesh and appeared in videos showing the murders of US journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley, US aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto and other hostages.
“This group of terrorists is associated with some of the most barbaric crimes committed during the conflict in Syria,” Graeme Biggar, Director of National Security at Britain’s interior ministry, said in a written statement to the court.
Britain has said it does not want the men repatriated to the United Kingdom and their British citizenship has been withdrawn.
British prosecutors concluded they did not have the evidence to launch their own case against the men but US officials then expressed frustration with the British stance of seeking an assurance that US prosecutors would not call for the death penalty, court documents showed.
However, last June, British ministers and senior officials decided the best way of ensuring a prosecution and to protect US relations was to seek no such assurance in this case.
That decision provoked criticism from opposition lawmakers and from some in the government’s own party who accused ministers of secretly abandoning Britain’s opposition to the death penalty.