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Cleaning up Everest will take years

Photo: Peak Promotion via Associated Press Ang Babu, who led the Sherpas team, said there could be as much as 40 to 50 tonnes of waste at the South Col, the last camp before the climbers attempt to reach the summit.

Binaj Gurubacharya – Associated Press in Kathmandu, Peru

Published yesterday at 9:57 p.m.

  • Asia

The highest camp on the world's highest mountain is littered with trash that will take years to clean up, according to a Sherpa who led a team employed to clean up the trash and dig up corpses frozen for centuries. years near the summit of Mount Everest.

The team of soldiers and Sherpas, funded by the Nepalese government, removed 11 tons of garbage, four corpses and a Everest skeleton during this year's climbing season.

Ang Babu, who led the Sherpas team, said he could have up to 40 to 50 tons of trash at the South Col, the last camp before the climbers attempt to reach the summit.

“The waste left there was mainly old tents, food wrappers and gas canisters, oxygen cylinders, tent bags and ropes used for climbing and tying the tents,” he explained , adding that the waste is layered and frozen at 8,000 meters above sea level, where the South Col camp is located.

Since the summit was reached for the first time in 1953, thousands of climbers climbed it and many left behind much more than their footprints.

In recent years, the government's requirement that climbers return their trash or lose their deposits as well as climbers' increased environmental awareness have significantly reduced the amount of trash left behind. However, this was not the case in previous decades.

“Most of the waste comes from older shipments,” Ang Babu said.

The team's Sherpas collected trash and bodies in the higher elevation areas, while the soldiers worked on the lower levels and in the base camp area for weeks during the popular spring climbing season, when weather conditions are more favorable.

Ang Babu said the weather posed a major challenge to their work in the South Pass region, where oxygen levels are about a third of the normal amount, winds can quickly turn into blizzards and temperatures plummet.

“We had to wait for the good weather for the sun to melt the ice layer. But waiting for a long time in this attitude and in these conditions is simply not possible,” he explained. “It is difficult to stay for a long time with the very low oxygen level. “

Digging up the waste is also a difficult task, as it is frozen in the ice and breaking the blocks is not easy.

It took two days to dig up a body near the South Col, which was frozen upright, embedded deep in the ice, he said.

Halfway through, the team had to retreat to lower camps due to worsening weather conditions, then resume once the situation improved.

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Another body was much higher, at 8400 meters, and it took 18 hours to transport it to Camp 2, where a helicopter recovered it.

The bodies were flown to Tribhuvan Teaching Hospital, Kathmandu, for identification.

Of the 11 tonnes of garbage removed, three tonnes of decomposable objects were transported to villages near the base of Everest and the remaining eight were transported by porters and yaks, then transported by trucks to Kathmandu.

The items there were sorted for recycling at a facility operated by Agni Ventures, an agency that manages recyclable waste.

“The oldest waste we received dated back to 1957, they were rechargeable batteries for flashlights,” said Sushil Khadga of the agency.

Mr. Khadga explains why there is so much trash.

“At this high altitude, life is very difficult and oxygen is very low. Climbers and their helpers are therefore more focused on their own survival,” he said.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116