Mt Everest's Highest Camp Littered With Frozen Garbage And Human Remains

The volume of trash at South Col, the pivotal camp before the summit, is estimated at a substantial 40–50 tonnes, highlighting the pressing need for ongoing and intensified clean-up endeavors on the world's highest peak
Mount Everest
Mount Everest is covered in waste@conceptsjpeg/Instagram

At almost 30,000 feet above sea level, Mount Everest attracts thousands of high-altitude climbers who leave behind tons of waste. The pollution is so severe that a study sampling 11 different snow regions of various altitudes found microplastics in all of them. Efforts have been made to clean up the mountain, and in 2021, the government of Nepal announced that 24,000 pounds of garbage, including plastic water bottles, food wrappings, plastic wrappers, tattered tents, equipment, batteries, and human waste, had been collected during a 45-day clean-up project. At the summit of Mount Everest, the towering peak that reigns as the world's highest, a troubling sight has emerged recently. The highest camp is now marred by a distressing accumulation of trash, presenting a formidable challenge for cleanup. An Everest sherpa, leading a team through the gruelling task of clearing the debris and recovering climbers' remnants, has emphasised the need for many years of unwavering dedication to restore this hallowed ground to its former unspoiled state.

On Top Of The World

Mt Everest
Horses grazing through trash in the shadow of Mt Everest @uselessplastic/Instagram

During the current climbing season, a dedicated team of soldiers and sherpas, financed by the Nepalese government, successfully retrieved a substantial 11 tons of waste, as well as rescuing four bodies and a skeleton from the formidable slopes of Everest. Team leader Ang Babu Sherpa emphasised that despite their efforts, the volume of trash at South Col, the pivotal camp before the summit, is still estimated at a substantial 40–50 tonnes, highlighting the pressing need for ongoing and intensified clean-up endeavors on the world's highest peak.

According to reports, a sherpa stated that the discarded items left at the site consisted mainly of old tents, food packaging, gas cartridges, oxygen bottles, tent packs, and ropes used for climbing and securing the tents. They added that the waste is layered and frozen at the 8,000-meter (26,400-foot) altitude where the South Col camp is situated.

Not Just Footprints Left Behind

According to Ang Babu, most of the garbage is from older expeditions, highlighting the lingering impact of previous climbs. Since the historic summit of Mount Everest in 1953, thousands of adventurers have followed, braving the world's highest peak. In recent years, the Nepalese government has instituted a mandatory regulation requiring climbers to carry back all their waste or risk forfeiting their deposits.

This, combined with a growing environmental consciousness among climbers, has led to a significant reduction in the amount of litter left behind on the mountain. To combat this issue, sherpas within the climbing teams have taken on the critical task of gathering waste and, in some cases, retrieving bodies from the perilous high-altitude areas. Meanwhile, soldiers have dedicated weeks of effort to clean up lower levels and the base camp during the peak spring climbing season, when weather conditions are most conducive to summit attempts.

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