Some 300 climbers have died on Everest, and two-thirds of their bodies are left out on the mountain.
Mount Everest has seen quite a bit of foot traffic since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers to reach the summit in 1953. According to Fox News, 5,200 people have hiked to the top — and that means countless mountains of trash left behind, which volunteers are now trying to conquer.
In the last two weeks, this new Nepalese cleanup campaign has recovered 6,613 pounds of garbage and four dead bodies. This is merely the beginning, however, as officials estimate they’ll rid the renowned mountain of 11 tons in total by the end of their 45-day initiative.
While there are still around 30 tons of garbage on Mount Everest and this environmental project won’t remove them all, it’s a heartening effort that has been a long time coming. Particularly for Nepal and its people, the partial rehabilitation of the nation’s most iconic landmark has been a personal quest.
“Our goal is to extract as much waste as possible from Everest so as to restore glory to the mountain,” said Dandu Raj Ghimire, Nepal’s tourism director. “Everest is not just the crown of the world, but our pride.”
This team effort has brought together a variety of Nepalese mountaineering groups, the local government, and the nation’s tourism department. Stunningly — the Everest Cleanup Campaign is the first substantial project of its kind for this iconic site.
“Everything on Everest, other than rock and snow, will be brought back,” said Tika Ram Gurung, secretary of the Nepal Mountaineering Association. “The goal is to send the message that we should keep this mountain pollution free.”
According to CNN, the 14-member team has now reached base camp. The campaign has been partially assisted by an army helicopter that serves as a garbage evacuation vehicle. Additionally, the project has made sure to provide all the necessary materials and supplies these volunteers will need.
“Our team has now reached the Everest Base Camp for the cleaning campaign,” said Ghimire. “All the necessary things including food, water and shelter have already been arranged there.”
This isn’t the first time Everest’s dead bodies have been recovered, of course. Several efforts to bring the dead back from the mountain’s stunning heights have been successful in the past, though these missions are challenging and dangerous. Mostly, the dead are simply left to rest where they died.
Just last month, more of these bodies were recovered thanks to climate change resulting in the thawing of ice much more quickly than expected.
“Because of global warming, the ice sheet and glaciers are fast melting and the sea bodies that remained buried all these years are now becoming exposed,” explained Ang Tshering Sherpa, the former president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.
This year alone, 775 people are expected to attempt the climb. Unfortunately, it’s likely that not all of them will make it back. Even with a perfect success rate, however, climbers regularly leave behind trash, tainting the mountain with consumer products such as plastic bottles and empty cans.
The first attempt to climb Mount Everest occurred nearly a century ago, in 1921. The mountain has claimed the lives of nearly 300 people since then, with two-thirds of that figure remaining buried in Everest’s ice and snow.
With the aforementioned benefits of climate change, of course, this majority of bodies is being exposed and thus easier to locate. As one government official who retrieved 10 bodies in the last few years said, “clearly more and more of them are emerging now.”
In the end, these resourceful sherpas and mountaineers are using climate change to their advantage — a moment of reprieve to clean their beloved mountain as thoroughly as possible. Unfortunately, nearly 1,000 people make the climb every year, making such littering unlikely to stop anytime soon.
After learning about the Mount Everest Cleanup Campaign, see the moment hikers discovered George Mallory’s body on Mount Everest. Then, learn about the final mooments of Francys Aresntiev, Mount Everest’s “Sleeping Beauty,” as well as mountaineer Ueli Steck, who died on Everest.