Environment

Nepalese climbers spruce up Mount Everest in a message to peak litterbugs

Decades of commercial mountaineering have turned Everest into the world's highest rubbish dump as an increasing number of big-spending climbers pay little attention to the ugly footprint they leave behind
Decades of commercial mountaineering have turned Everest into the world's highest rubbish dump as an increasing number of big-spending climbers pay little attention to the ugly footprint they leave behind AFP/File

A group of Nepalese climbers have removed a whopping 2.2 tons of trash from the world’s highest peak in an exercise now set to gather steam this month when Nepal’s army will start scouring for trash on five other mountains besides Mount Everest. This comes as Covid restrictions are lifted and the spring climbing season gets underway.

Advertising

The Nepalese climbers spent 47 days since September last year to collect rubbish around the 17,900-foot base camp of Mount Everest.

The expedition backed by a Swiss luxury brand took advantage of the lull in tourism in Nepal because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Environmental activist Dawa Steven Sherpa who led the exercise spoke of the event in a video post on 1 April.

“When we take away garbage from base camp or from a mountain, it must feel to the gods just like taking a thorn out of their finger,” he said in the video of men collecting oxygen bottles, cans, food wrappings and kitchen waste left behind by climbers.

“I think many people will take inspiration or get some motivation and would like to do the same when this (Covid-19) crisis is over,” he added.

The Nepalese authorities removed 11 tons of rubbish and four bodies of climbers in a two-month cleanup of the world's tallest peak in 2019.

A private group in January said it planned to turn retrieved trash into pieces of art and sold as souvenirs.

But some officials said they believed it was a mammoth task was as around 800 people attempt to scale the 29,030-foot Mount Everest every year.

Nepal's Tourism Board official warned that although the private initiatives were welcome, "cleaning mountains is not as simple as it may sound.”

Over 100 permits have already been approved as the spring climbing season gets underway, and Nepal lifts quarantine restrictions to allow international visitors.

Military clean-up

Nepal’s army has unveiled plans of a military-driven cleanup of Mount Everest, first climbed by Norway’s Edward Hillary and Nepalese sherpa Tenzing Norgay in May 1953.

The campaign will begin on 13 April and end on World Environmental Day on 5 June, the army said and added the exercise will target other mountains as well.

“There will be 43 climbers from the Nepali army along with Sherpa mountaineers and other guides,” brigadier-general Shanttosh Ballave Poudyal was quoted by local media as saying.

“The cleaning will be done in the base and above in all the mountains.” the army spokesman said and added non-biodegradable waste will be transported to capital Kathmandu.

The military hopes to pick up at least 35 tons of garbage including 18 tons from areas around base camps of mountains such as Lhotse, Pumori, Ama Dablam, Makalu and Mount Dhaulagiri.

Eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains are wholly or partly in Nepal and form the backbone of the land-locked nation’s tourism-driven economy.

The project is estimated to cost almost one million euros.

Indian war on litterbugs

India said it was also battling litterbugs on mountain trails.

“We organize cleaning expeditions of frequently-used mountaineering routes two to three times every year,” Indian Mountaineering Foundation Secretary S.P. Malik told RFI.

“This year also, despite the Covid-19 pandemic we organized three cleaning expeditions,” Malik said.

 An Indian expedition to Everest has been told to bring back its trash.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning