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Adventure Sports

with Stefan Nestler

A mess on Everest

Garbage in Everest high camp

“Damn it! What a mess,” I cursed this morning as I rode my bike to work after the sunny weekend. “Are these peoples’ brains turned off?” The path was paved with plastic cups, fast food packaging, barbecue trays and shards of broken beer bottles. It looked similar, albeit with other, sometimes even less appetizing ingredients, after this spring season in the high camps on Mount Everest. Even bags with faeces were lying around. The Mexican climber David Liano Gonzalez documented this mess with pictures. “I’ve been a part of ‚Eco Everest Expeditions‘ for ten years. We have brought down more than ten tons of trash. I carry down my own poop on special bags,” the 38-year-old, who scaled the highest mountain on earth for the seventh time this year, writes to me. “I try to leave the mountain cleaner than I found it. But with so many people, no oversight and no mountain ethics, the problem is out of control.”

No respect

David Liano on top of Everest this spring

Most summit aspirants don’t even care about Everest, says David: “They only climb Everest to get a photo at the summit and post it on social media. That’s it. No respect. For them it’s irrelevant if the mountain is a garbage dump or if they litter it while they are there.” The Mexican is stunned that even Sherpas pollute the high camps: “This is a sacred mountain for the Sherpa and they litter it as much or more than foreigners. It’s shocking. Disappointing.”

Better pay for carrying down lightweight waste

A change of mind among climbers is urgently needed, says Liano. “This takes a generation. But change of mind definitely needs to be started.” The goal is to stop the pollution in the Everest high camps and remove the garbage that is already there, says David, adding, that it is a good start to pay the Sherpas per kilogram of garbage they bring down: “However, people tend to carry down mostly heavy stuff, but all the ripped tents and tarps will stay up there forever because they don’t weigh too much. No incentive. So pay much more per kilogram if the trash brought down is only cloth!”

Lifetime ban

The Mexican climber is also demanding tough punishments on the polluters among the Sherpas and foreign members of the commercial groups. Lifelong bans for participation in expeditions are conceivable, suggests Liano. Operators could lose their license. “Encourage people to take photos of litterers! We should also get NGOs involved in supervising that current regulations are followed and enforced.”

Issue fewer permits

Finally, David thinks that it is crucial to limit the number of Everest summit aspirants in order to cope with the waste problem in the high camps. “I’ve always believed that mountains should be available to all. Now I’ve changed my mind for Everest,” says Liano. “The number of climbers needs to be controlled. If this is a problem for Nepal because income is being cut, then double the permit fees if necessary!”


11. June 2018 | 15:55