Mt Everest camp littered with tonnes of garbage, cleanup may imageMt Everest camp littered with tonnes of garbage, cleanup may image

Kathmandu: Efforts Underway to Clean Up Mount Everest’s Highest Camp

Mount Everest’s highest camp faces a significant cleanup challenge due to accumulated garbage, which could take years to address, according to a Sherpa leader involved in the recent cleaning expedition. Supported by the Nepal government, a team comprising soldiers and Sherpas successfully removed 11 tonnes of trash, along with four bodies and a skeleton, during this year’s climbing season.

The cleanup initiative aims to restore the pristine beauty of the world’s tallest mountain while addressing environmental concerns and safety hazards posed by decades-old debris and human remains. Efforts like these highlight ongoing efforts to preserve Everest’s natural environment and ensure safer climbing conditions for future expeditions.

Sherpas Work to Clear Decades of Garbage from Mount Everest’s South Col Camp

Ang Babu Sherpa, leading a team of Sherpas, has highlighted the daunting task of cleaning up Mount Everest’s South Col camp, where an estimated 40-50 tonnes of garbage remain. Located at 8,000 meters (26,400 feet) altitude, the camp is littered with remnants of old tents, food packaging, gas cartridges, oxygen bottles, tent packs, and climbing ropes—all frozen in layers due to the harsh conditions.

Since Mount Everest was first conquered in 1953, thousands of climbers have scaled its heights, leaving behind not just footprints but significant debris. Recent efforts by the Nepal government, including requirements for climbers to bring back their trash or forfeit deposits, have reduced litter in recent years. However, remnants from earlier expeditions continue to pose environmental challenges.

“Most of the garbage originates from past expeditions,” noted Ang Babu. Sherpas focused on higher-altitude areas, while soldiers cleared lower levels and the base camp during the spring climbing season, known for favorable weather conditions.

These ongoing efforts underscore a commitment to preserving Everest’s natural beauty and ensuring safer conditions for future climbers. As awareness grows and cleanup initiatives expand, hopes are high for a cleaner, more sustainable environment on the world’s highest peak.

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Challenges and Triumphs in Cleaning Mount Everest’s South Col Area

Ang Babu Sherpa shared the immense challenges faced by their team while clearing the South Col area of Mount Everest. Situated at 8,000 meters (26,400 feet), the site presents extreme conditions with low oxygen levels, sudden blizzards, and plunging temperatures.

“Working in such harsh weather conditions was extremely challenging,” Ang Babu explained. “We had to wait for favorable weather windows when sunlight could melt the ice covering the garbage. However, staying for long periods at such high altitudes with low oxygen levels was difficult.”

Removing frozen garbage buried in ice proved to be a monumental task. The team encountered frozen blocks that required meticulous effort to break apart. Retrieving bodies frozen in ice was equally demanding; one body, frozen in a standing position near South Col, took two days to excavate. Weather conditions often forced the team to retreat to lower camps temporarily before resuming their work. The bodies were flown to Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu for identification.

At higher altitudes, another body at 8,400 meters (27,720 feet) posed a logistical challenge. It took 18 hours to transport the body to Camp 2, from where a helicopter airlifted it to Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital for identification.

In addition to human remains, the team removed 11 tonnes of garbage, including decomposable items transported to villages near Everest’s base. The remaining non-degradable waste was carried by porters and yaks to Kathmandu, where it was sorted for recycling at a facility managed by Agni Ventures, an agency specializing in recyclable waste management.

These efforts highlight the dedication and perseverance required to preserve Everest’s environment and ensure safer conditions for climbers. As cleanup initiatives continue, they contribute to a sustainable future for one of the world’s most iconic natural landmarks.

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