Sunday, July 17, 2005

Conquering Mt. Everest—and Trash

A bit of old news, still very valid. It has turned progressively worse since then.

The Path Too Well-Traveled

As the highest mountain on Earth, Mt. Everest represents the ultimate challenge for mountain climbers. But a different challenge faces the Inventa Everest 2000 Environmental Expedition, a team currently on the mountain. The participants have no interest in reaching the 29,035-foot summit. Instead, these climbers aim to clean Mt. Everest.

Mt. Everest is becoming known as the world's highest junkyard. Why is this mountaineering mecca in Nepal so polluted?

Thanks in part to Mt. Everest, tourism to Nepal (located between China and India) has exploded over the past few decades. Sir Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa climbing partner, Tenzing Norgay, were the first to conquer Mt. Everest in 1953. Now as many as 400 people each spring and fall attempt to climb Mt. Everest, or Sagarmatha, as the people of Nepal call it.

Not surprisingly, the increase of adventurers has led to an increase in litter, especially along the most popular route to the summit—the Southeast Ridge. The trail consists of a base camp at 17,600 feet and four additional camps closer to the summit. Since the first successful expedition, at least 50 tons of trash have accumulated.

At least 10 tons of garbage litters the 26,300-foot South Col, also called Camp IV. Most mountaineers make their final assault on the summit from here.

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