The Mount Everest cleanup project will cover the mountain’s high altitude areas to collect waste left at climbing campsites. The massive 90-day initiative began on May 6.
The areas of focus are on the north side of Everest and reach altitudes of between 17,000 and 21,300 feet. China’s Xinhua news agency reported that in the first five days of the cleanup, foreign and Tibetan volunteers collected 4 tons of refuse.
— The Himalayan Times (@thehimalayan) April 21, 2017
A popular site for tourists, Mount Everest sees about 60,000 visitors annually, and they often leave behind oxygen tanks, tin cans, plastic bags, old tents, mountain climbing tools, cooking implements and sometimes even human waste.
In a 2012 opinion piece in the Washington Post about the problem, Grayson Schaffer, an editor for Outside magazine, revealed that famed Swiss climber Ueli Steck, who died on Everest just last month, said he wouldn’t even boil Everest snow for drinking water any more, he believed it to be so contaminated.
— 3Standard Deviations (@TallyTaxiDriver) September 8, 2016
"Everest even has a sewage problem," Schaffer wrote, "The peak has become a fecal time bomb, and the mess is gradually sliding back toward base camp."
An increase in visitors after a deadly 2014 avalanche has led to some of the more oft-traveled hiking routes becoming particularly polluted.
Alton Byers from the Mountain Institute told Vice News in 2015, "It's getting notorious — people getting sick from water contaminated by dumping human waste … The place is getting covered with landfills, creating an environmental hazard for humans and animals." Vice quoted Byers as noting that, each year, an average of 12,000 pounds of waste is left behind at Everest’s base camp.
Now, there are plans for the government to install sorting and recycling stations as a more permanent approach to the issue of litter on the mountain. But first, there are presumably many tons more trash to be collected by hand from the Roof of the World.