Mountain of garbage cleaned from Everest

For years, the slopes of the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest, were littered with heaps of oxygen bottles, food packets, tents, batteries, and other climbing paraphernalia left behind by mountaineers.

“An estimated minimum of 290 tons and a maximum of 1,115 tons of garbage have been left in the area,” Junko Tabei of Japan, the first woman to reach the Everest summit, said in 2000. “Based on the fact that an average of 304 people a year were climbing Everest in the 1990s … the amount of garbage is increasing every year by between 15.5 and 60 tons.”

But Reuters reports that as Nepal gears up to celebrate the 50th anniversary on May 29 of the first Everest ascent, climbers say the Himalayan peak is almost back to its original pristine state, thanks to concerted conservation efforts in recent years.

“If you want to find garbage on Everest now, you have to go looking for it, and you’ll only find it in some pretty obscure locations, and then it will be at least 30 to 50 years old,” said

U.S. mountain guide Eric Simonson. “I know print advertisements … would have you believe there’s some huge junk pile up there. But now it’s all gone and won’t ever return. But that doesn’t make for such great press usually.”

Another cleanup is due this year when nine U.S. climbers and nine Nepali sherpas plan to haul 2,200 pounds of paper, cylinders, and other rubbish down from a camp at 20,670 feet, which gets the most use after base camp.

Conservation efforts kicked off in the early 1990s, when a New Zealand team removed 8,818 pounds of garbage from base camp, the most crowded part of the mountain Tibetans call Chomolungma, or Goddess Mother of the World. Over the years, many foreign and Nepali climbing teams on cleanup expeditions have hauled back mountains of garbage, ranging from cans and crampons to brass tent stakes and broken ladders. More recently, a Japanese team returned in 2002 with 2.6 tons of garbage, including tents, 170 oxygen cylinders, gas cartridges, and plastic that had accumulated over the years since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the top.

The drive to clean up the 29,040-foot mountain, which rises from picture-perfect fields of irises to formidably vast seas of ice, has also gotten a prod from the Nepali government. In 1996, Nepal made it compulsory for expeditions to bring back their rubbish and began charging a US$4,000 “garbage deposit” from each team. The money was refunded if the team showed it had packed its trash.

“Most Westerners are very careful to clean their own garbage as well as pick up the garbage from the past. Sherpas are also doing this religiously,” said Ed Viesturs, a U.S. mountain guide who has climbed Everest five times.

Ano da Publicação: 2003
Fonte: WARMER BULLETIN ENEWS #17-2003: May 16, 2003
Autor: Kit Strange
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