Mount Everest Is Covered In Tons Of Trash And Dead Bodies, Nepal’s Government Hopes To Change That

'Our goal is to extract as much waste as possible from Everest so as to restore glory to the mountain.'

mount everest as seen from base camp
United States Air Force (GPL Aaron Homer)

'Our goal is to extract as much waste as possible from Everest so as to restore glory to the mountain.'

Mount Everest is littered with tons of trash, as well as dead bodies, so much so that the mountain has earned the nickname “The World’s Highest Dump,” USA Today reports. The Nepalese government is hoping to make a dent in that before climbing season begins in earnest.

Already government forces have removed three tons of garbage from the slopes of the world’s highest mountain, and they hope to remove another 11 tons before climbing season in a couple of weeks. That should make a pretty large dent in the estimated 30 tons of debris up there — assuming this season’s crop of climbers doesn’t leave any more.

The Mountain’s Trash Problem

There are two main factors that are contributing to Mount Everest’s trash problem.

The first is the harsh nature of the mountain itself. At such high altitudes, every calorie is precious beyond measure, so climbers generally leave debris — oxygen tanks, discarded equipment, their own bodies — where it lands, as carrying it down requires expending energy that’s best conserved for other uses.

And when someone dies up there, moving their body is all but out of the question. As All That’s Interesting reported in 2017, at least 200 people are known to have died on that mountain, most of their bodies left there for lack of a means of getting them down. To this day, climbers routinely pass within feet of bodies that have been there for decades, perfectly preserved in the cold, dry climate.

The second problem is the extreme popularity of summiting Everest. So affordable is the journey (by the standards of luxury travel, that is) and so willing are companies to sell spots on their treks that in any climbing season, as many as a thousand climbers could be on the mountain at any one time.

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Mitigation Efforts

The Nepalese government has attempted to make some efforts at reducing the problem. In 2014, for example, the government enacted a rule that requires all climbers to bring back 8 kilograms (roughly 17 pounds) of trash when they leave the mountain. That amount is roughly the amount of gear they take with them, therefore mandating that their efforts be trash-neutral, as Dandu Raj Ghimire, Nepal’s tourism director, explains.

“If only climbers brought back their own waste, it would greatly help keep Everest clean. It’s not about the 8kg waste, but bringing back the waste they produce.”

Apart from asking climbers to bring back their own waste (or an equivalent amount), the efforts of the Nepalese government mark the first major effort to rid the mountain of its decades of climbers’ bodies and trash.