A major new campaign has been launched to clean up the world’s tallest mountain in a bid to rid the mighty peak of its newfound reputation as the “world’s highest garbage dump.” The 45-day Everest Cleaning Campaign was launched on April 14, the Nepali new year, and seeks to undo just some of the damage wrought by commercial mountaineering on Mount Everest.
The tourist trap, which attracts well-heeled climbers from across the globe, has increasingly represented a vertical landfill—with the epic path to the 30,000-foot summit absolutely teeming with both biodegradable and nonbiodegradable trash. Items left behind by climbers and Sherpas include discarded fluorescent lights, climbing and camping equipment, empty gas canisters, food packaging, beer bottles, and a huge amount of human excrement.
Dandu Raj Ghimire, the chief of Nepal’s tourism department, told The Himalayan Times:
“Our team has now reached the Everest Base Camp for the cleaning campaign. All the necessary things including food, water and shelter have already been arranged there.”
Over 6,600 pounds (or 3,000 kilogram) of solid waste has already been collected by volunteers from mountaineering associations, local organizations, and members of the military, assisted by Nepali Army helicopters who are helping dispose of the garbage and airlift recyclables to the Nepali capital of Kathmandu. Incentives will also be given to climbers and high-altitude workers who bring back bundled trash to camps established for the cleanup.
Nepali authorities have feared that if the accumulating trash on Mount Everest continues to go unaddressed, the filth would reach crisis-like proportions.
Over 4,000 people have climbed Everest and last year the mountain saw a record 807 climbers reach the summit. The number is expected to increase as the mountain’s reputation as a mecca for the climbing world continues to grow.
Speaking to AFP, Ghimire said:
“We take pride in Mount Everest but we are often accused of not being able to clean it… We have now come together to clean the mountain.”
The team also hopes to descend from the treacherous mountains with any human corpses they may find along the way. Four dead bodies have already been found.
The government of Nepal implemented a $4,000 USD deposit system six years ago that required climbing teams to ensure that each of its members would bring 18 pounds of waste back from their climb, but only half of climbers actually returned with their trash.
China took action in February by banning any non-climbers from accessing the Everest base camp in the Chinese province of Tibet, as it undertook efforts to clean up its side of the mountain.
Due to changes in global climate conditions, melting glaciers have revealed decades worth of accumulated trash as well as bodies that have been left behind since the first successful summit climb was made by climber Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Torgay on May 29, 1953.
Santa Bir Sherpa of the Nepal Mountaineering Association told CTV News:
“This is the first time the government has taken initiative to clean the mountain… but it can’t be done in just one year. We have to continue this.”