Summiting Mount Everest is one of the greatest achievements in the world. However, so many people are attempting to conquer the world’s highest mountain that the peak is now covered in human waste. The excrement has become such a problem that Nepal’s mountaineering association believes it could cause pollution and spread disease.
While this writer is not a climber, you might think that basic courtesy and respect for nature would see people take their waste with them when they head back down the mountain. We clean up after our dogs, don’t we? However, according to Ang Tshering, the head of the Nepalese mountaineering association, human feces and urine have been “piling up” for years around the four camps, and it’s a real problem.
“Climbers usually dig holes in the snow for their toilet use and leave the human waste there,” Ang said to BBC Newsweek. With over 700 climbers attempted to conquer the summit each season, you can imagine that the piles of crap soon begin to build up.
“It is a health hazard and the issue needs to be addressed,” says Dawa Steven Sherpa, who has been leading clean-up efforts for the past seven years.
While there are toilet tents at base camp, where waste is collected in drums for proper disposal, there are no facilities between the base and the summit. While some climbers carry disposable waste bags, not all of the ambitious mountain climbers do.
The Nepalese government is working on a solution, but attempts to stop climbers from going ‘au naturel’ will first need to be addressed. As well as feces, climbers are also leaving climbing equipment, such as oxygen tanks, on the mountain. As such, new rules mean that every climber must bring along 8kg (18lb) of rubbish when they descend. This is up from the 4kg trash rule instituted last year, and represents approximately the amount of rubbish the average climb discards while climbing, based on an average, and officials hope this new rule will help balance out the waste left on the mountain.
Teams must also make a $4,000 (£2,600) deposit, which they will lose if they don’t stick to the rules. Seems fair enough. If we want to conquer the natural world, it makes sense we don’t crap all over it while we’re doing it.
Images via Rupert Taylor-Price and Abd allah Foteih