As far as spring cleaning goes, there are few jobs bigger than Mt. Everest. Standing at 29,029 feet, the world’s tallest mountain above sea level has long been overdue for a cleanup effort. After just two weeks in, the endeavor has already yielded more than 6,600 pounds of trash that humans have left on the summit—and four dead bodies.
The Sagarmatha Cleaning Campaign, named after the Nepali word used to describe Everest (it loosely translates to “sky head”), began on April 14. An official effort from Nepal’s government, it involves the country’s military, tourism board, ministry of environment, and local governments and costs over 23 million Nepalese Rupees, or roughly $206,000—and it’s just getting started.
The cleaners will ultimately collect around 11,000 pounds of garbage from the Base Camp area; 4,400 pounds from the South Col region; and 6,600 pounds from the Camp II and III areas, according to Dandu Raj Ghimire, director general of Nepal’s Department of Tourism, in an interview with The Himalayan Times. That comes out to approximately 11 tons of trash.
Cleaning up the highest peak in the world is, as you’d expect, much more difficult than cleaning out your house. Hiking up to the Base Camp alone (17,700 feet high) on the southern side takes several days. The windy South Col region (25,938 feet) is an entry point into Everest’s death zone, a mountaineering phrase for locations where the oxygen is insufficient for humans over an extended time period.
The trash itself is wide-ranging. Empty cans, bottles, plastic, and discarded climbing gear litter the Base Camp, to the extent that a military helicopter has been brought in to take the non-biodegradable trash to nearby Kathmandu.
Eight workers have begun entering Camp II, also known to some as Advanced Base Camp (ABC), which is approximately 21,300 feet up. Soon, teams of three will rotate in and out of Camp IV, around 25,900 feet above sea level, where they’ll spend 15 days cleaning.
“The cleanup campaign will be continued in the coming seasons as well to make the world’s tallest mountain clean,” Ghimire told The Himalayan Times. “It is our responsibility to keep our mountains clean.”
In February, China, which maintains the mountain along with Nepal, took the step of banning all non-climbing tourists from Base Camp in an effort to alleviate pressure on the mountain. The cleaning effort comes right as Everest begins its May busy season. Last year, the mountain saw approximately 1.17 million visitors.
Source: The Himalayan Times
Originally posted on Popular Mechanics