Nature and Biodiversity

Sherpa climbers carried out the highest-ever spring clean. This is what they found

Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world with an altitude of 8,848 metres (29,028 feet), is seen in this aerial view March 25, 2008. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan

Bags and bodies - what humans leave behind on the world's highest mountain Image: REUTERS/Desmond Boylan

Emma Charlton
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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The world's highest mountain has gained an unwelcome reputation as the world’s highest rubbish dump, and a recent clean-up operation at Mount Everest collected more than 10,000 kilogrammes of garbage including human excrement, used oxygen bottles, old tents, ropes, cans, plastic wrappers, and four bodies.

 Melting snow revealed thousands of kilogrammes of trash on the world’s highest peak.
Melting snow revealed thousands of kilogrammes of trash on the world’s highest peak. Image: SPCC Facebook page

Around 5,000 people have reached Everest’s summit, at 8,8488 metres or 29,000 feet. But many more visit base camp and the Sagarmatha National Park in Nepal, and those tourists and mountaineers often leave things behind.

Sherpa climbers backed by the Nepalese government and charities collected the litter, which was exposed as the winter snow melted.

Trash dumping is a problem for the government as it needs to balance the revenue generated by such a large-scale tourist attraction with the need to protect and preserve it. Nepal this year issued 381 permits to Everest, costing $11,000 each.

 The popularity of scaling Mount Everest has seen a dramatic climb in recent years.
The popularity of scaling Mount Everest has seen a dramatic climb in recent years. Image: SPCC
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China’s government blocked non-climbers from visiting the base camp on its side of the mountain earlier this year, saying tourists visiting the site at around 17,000 feet were leaving too much trash.

 Oxygen bottles, old tents, broken ladders and more were found during the Everest clean-up.
Oxygen bottles, old tents, broken ladders and more were found during the Everest clean-up. Image: SPCC Facebook page

The impact of tourists on the environment is one of the themes covered in the World Economic Forum’s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report, which assesses countries based on how they balance sustainability and the economic advantages of tourism – the industry accounts for 1 in 10 jobs on the planet.

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Related topics:
Nature and BiodiversitySustainable DevelopmentGeographies in Depth
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