Climbers now required to carry garbage down Mount Everest

  • Article by: GARDINER HARRIS , New York Times
  • Updated: March 3, 2014 - 7:52 PM

New rule requires Mount Everest climbers to carry refuse down the mountain.

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Climbers now must lug 18 pounds of long-accumulated garbage as they descend Mount Everest.

Photo: ADRIAN BALLINGER • Alpenglow Expeditions via AP,

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The rule is the government’s first concerted effort to eliminate an estimated 50 tons of trash that has been left on Mount Everest by climbers over the past six decades. The waste includes empty oxygen bottles, torn tents, discarded food containers — and the bodies of climbers who died on the mountain.

Nepal’s government hopes the new rule will result in the collection of nearly 8 tons of waste this year alone.

Mountaineering associations and former climbers have become increasingly concerned about the growing refuse on Mount Everest that does not degrade because of the frigid temperatures. In 2010, a special team of climbers carried more than 2 tons of trash down from elevations exceeding 24,000 feet. And last year, concerned climbers collectively carried down 4 tons of trash.

But hundreds of climbers ascend Mount Everest annually. Most are led by guides and have little experience, so they discard trash along the way to save the energy they need to reach the summit or return to base camp alive. Their trash continues to increase, so much so that some climbers have termed Mount Everest the world’s highest garbage dump.

“From now on, a climber is required to bring down 8 kilograms of waste, and that excludes their own empty oxygen bottles and human dung,” said Madhusudhan Burlakoti, joint secretary of Nepal’s tourism ministry.

Climbers who fail to appear at base camp with the required additional garbage will face stiff penalties that could include a ban on future ascents, Burlakoti said.

“We will not compromise on it,” Burlakoti said. “Defaulters will face serious legal action.”

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