A Steady Climb in Garbage

Mount Everest is awash in trash and feces. Can't we keep anything nice?

March 04, 2015

The summit of Mount Everest looms over everything—including the garbage, oxygen containers, and broken tent poles of those who climb it (and the frozen bodies of those who fail). The biggest problem, though, is human waste. Climbers relieve themselves anywhere they can, leaving rivulets of yellow and brown snow all over the mountain. In spring, the excrement washes into the streams and rivers that local communities depend on.

And as the number of adventure seekers grows (shown in the graph below), the worse the problem gets. More than 700 people made the dangerous trek in 2013, and quite frankly, Nepalese officials have had enough. Earlier this week, they said they will be cracking down on a 2014 mandate requiring each climber to bring down 17.6 pounds of litter. If they don't, they face a $4,000 fine. And why else should you mountaineers clean up the trash? Because it's there

Everest attempts

onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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