People living in Nepal know Mount Everest as Sagarmatha, which can be translated as "Mother of the World." That’s why many are appalled by the large amounts of garbage and human waste littering the routes up the world's tallest mountain. “Everest is our god and it was very sad to see our god so dirty,” said one climber. “How can people just toss their trash on such a sacred place?”
But they do, and as the number of climbers coming to tackle the mountain increases, more garbage accumulates, including depleted oxygen cylinders, tents, food packaging, rope – and worse. Some say the biggest concern on Mount Everest is human waste. Melting conditions at climbers' camps on the mountain create noxious odors, and the waste has begun to contaminate water sources at lower levels.
A big problem on the world's highest peak:
- Exhausted climbers struggling to breathe and battling nausea leave tents behind rather than trying to carry them down. Some use biodegradable bags with enzymes for their bodily waste, but most just dig holes in the snow.
- The Nepalese government is considering a plan to scan and tag climbers’ equipment and gear. Climbers would have to deposit $4,000 USD before their ascents, and wouldn't get their money back if they return empty-handed.
- About 700 climbers attempted to scale the peak in 2019. Some were customers of budget expedition companies that charge as little as $30,000 USD per climber, cutting costs that traditionally included waste removal.