These Climbers Are Doing a Spring Clean on the Highest Mountain on Earth

An audacious 12-person team that includes Nepalese army personnel will remove 10,000 kg of waste from Mount Everest

May 6, 2019
View of Everest from Gokyo valley with a group of climbers on a glacier on their way to Everest base camp

(Daniel Prudek/Shutterstock.com)

While most noteworthy conservation cleanups this year took place deep within the blue ocean, one particular project in Nepal aims a little bit higher. So high, in fact, that it reached the tallest peak on earth - Mount Everest.

This mountain, known for its record-breaking altitude, has recently gained a new and not-so-glamorous reputation as the “world’s highest garbage dump.” Approximately 500 climbers and 1,000 support staff will reach the higher camps this year, and while most are focused on getting up the infamous summit, a few incredible souls will worry about what they’re bringing down the mountain - waste.

The rural municipality of Khumbu Pasanglhamu is leading the most ambitious clean up of Everest to date. The 45-day undertaking called the “Everest cleaning campaign” plans to collect 10,000 kg of waste from both the lower and higher camps.

Climbers who scale Everest often carry heavy packs, cooking supplies, oxygen canisters, and more. Amid the dangerous trek, the majority of these supplies don't make it back down for proper disposal. For years this trash has accumulated on the famous snowy peaks. However, this spring, an audacious 12-person team that includes Nepalese army personnel will bring that trash back down.

The campaign, which started on April 14 (the Nepali New Year) has already collected 3,000 kg of waste. Part of the trash will go to landfills and part will be given to Blue Waste to Value, a social enterprise that recycles rubbish.

Tika Ram Gurung, secretary of the Nepal Mountaineering Association explains that "the goal is to send the message that we should keep this mountain pollution free."

Beyond waste, the project will also bring back several bodies of climbers that were once deemed too dangerous to bring back or that were buried under snow. With the melting of the glaciers, remains that were once hidden have been revealed, and can, therefore, receive a proper burial.

The ambitious project is organized in joint partnership with a number of non-profit and public organizations, such as the Nepalese Ministry of Forest and Environment, the Federal Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, and the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee.

The 45-day campaign will conclude on May 29, which marks the 66-year anniversary of the very first summit of Mount Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953.

Before the waste is recycled, it will be showcased on World Environmental Day in Kathmandu.

Danduraj Ghimire, director general of the Department of Tourism explains that removing waste from Everest is about restoring “glory to the mountain…Everest is not just the crown of the world, but our pride."

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HILLA BENZAKEN, CONTRIBUTOR
Hilla Benzaken is a dedicated optimist. Her happy place involves cooking, acting, gardening, and fighting for social justice. She writes about all things sustainability, innovation, and DIY.

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