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Climbers On Mount Everest Will Be Ordered To Buy Poop Bags And Bring Their Waste Back Down Them With Them

Source: Instagram/radioehden

Authorities have announced that climbers on Mount Everest will now have to buy poop bags and bring their waste back down with them for proper disposal. According to a report, the new rule is only a part of wider measures being implemented.

“We will run a contact office and make sure our new measures, including making climbers bring back their excrement, are implemented.” Mingma Sherpa, chairman of Pasang Lhamu rural municipality said.

Climbing The World’s Tallest Mountain

Mount Everest is the tallest mountain on Earth, located in the Himalayas. It sits on the border between China and Nepal. Its height is measured at 8,848.86 meters (29,031 feet 8+1/2 inches). This was recently confirmed in 2020 by authorities from both countries.

Source: Flickr/NASA on The Commons

Many climbers, including experts, come to Mount Everest. There are two main climbing routes. One from the southeast in Nepal (called the “standard route”) and the other from the north in Tibet.

“Mountains Have Begun To Stink”

“Our mountains have begun to stink…We are getting complaints that human stools are visible on rocks and some climbers are falling sick. This is not acceptable and erodes our image,” Mingma said.

Source: Flickr/sanjay austa

Climbers attempting Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, and nearby Mount Lhotse will be ordered to buy so-called poo bags at base camp. The bags will then be “checked upon their return”. Due to the extreme temperatures, waste left on Everest does not completely degrade.

High Altitude Toilet Adventures

Throughout the climbing season, mountaineers commit much of their time to acclimatising to the altitude at the base camp. There, separate tents serve as toilets, with barrels positioned beneath to collect waste.

Source: Flickr/Alpina Watches

But as they set off on their daring adventure, things take a turn for the trickier! Most climbers and support teams usually resort to digging holes for their business. But as they climb higher, they meet spots with less snow, leading to some al fresco toilet time.

Sherpa Speaks: Everest’s Waste Woes

Only a small number of climbers opt to bring back their waste in biodegradable bags during the weeks-long journey to Mount Everest’s summit. Efforts such as the Nepali Army’s annual clean-up campaign have been made to clean up the area. Despite this, waste continues to pose a significant problem on Everest and neighboring mountains in the region.

Source: South China Morning Post/Agence France-Presse

“Waste remains a major issue, especially in higher-up camps where you can’t reach,” says Chhiring Sherpa. Sherpa is the CEO of the non-government organization Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC).

South Col: Everest’s Notorious Open Toilet

As of now, no official figure is available. However, his organization approximates that there are approximately three tonnes of human waste. They are scattered between Camp One at the base of Everest and Camp Four, closer to the summit.

Source: Asian Trekking via AP/Dawa Steven Sherpa

“Half of that is believed to be in South Col, also known as camp four,” Mr Chhiring says. Stephan Keck is an international mountain guide who also organizes expeditions to Everest. He mentioned that South Col has gained a reputation as an “open toilet”.

Surviving The Death Zone

At 7,906m (25,938 feet) in elevation, South Col serves as the base before climbers try to reach the summit of Everest and Lhotse. Upon reaching the South Col, climbers enter what is known as the death zone, where altitude sickness poses a serious and potentially fatal risk. The digestive systems of most climbers slow down or cease entirely.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Maxwelljo40

This is due to the body’s preference for utilizing stored energy rather than digesting new food at this altitude. Supplemental oxygen becomes essential for most climbers, who typically have only two or three days at most to attempt to reach the summit. In this area, the landscape is characterized by strong winds and exposed terrain.

Mount Everest’s Sanitation Solution: Poo Bags

“There is hardly any ice and snow, so you will see human poop all around,” Mr Keck says. Authorised by the municipality, the SPCC is now procuring about 8,000 poo bags from the US. This is for an estimated 400 foreign climbers and 800 support staff for the upcoming climbing season that begins next month.

Source: The National News/AFP

These poop bags contain chemicals and powders that solidify human waste and reduce it’s odor. They will be available to purchase at base camp and will be checked upon their return, per BBC News.

Bagging A Solution

Typically, climbers are estimated to generate 250 grams of waste per day. They typically spend around two weeks at the higher camps during their summit attempts. That’s around 3.5kg of waste per climber for the entire season.

Source: Twitter/Telegraph

“With that as the basis, we plan to give them two bags, each of which they can use five to six times,” Mr Chhiring said. “It certainly is a positive thing, and we will be happy to play our part to make this successful,” said Dambar Parajuli. He is the president of the Expedition Operators Association of Nepal.

A Tried And Tested Solution

Mingma Sherpa is the first Nepali to reach the summit of all 14 mountains above 8,000 meters. He noted that the use of such waste management bags has been successfully implemented in other mountains.

Source: South China Morning Post/Xinhua

“Mountaineers have been using such bags on Mount Denali (the highest peak in North America) and in the Antarctic as well, that is why we have been advocating for it,” says Mr. Mingma, who is also an advisor to the Nepal Mountaineering Association.

Mountain Cleanup: Guides Support New Ideas

Mr. Keck, an international mountain guide, agrees. He said this idea would help clean up the mountain. Nepal’s government has made many mountaineering rules before, but people criticize that they aren’t followed well.

Source: Chinadialogue/Li Jinxue

One big reason is that there aren’t government officers on the ground. These officers are supposed to be with expedition teams at base camps, but many times they don’t show up.

Mount Everest’s Permit Predicament

“The state has always been missing at base camps leading to all kinds of irregularities including people climbing our mountains without permits,” Mr Mingma said.

Source: Reuters/Laurence Tan

National Geographic reports that Mount Everest has faced a persistent issue with trash. This includes discarded oxygen canisters, tents, food containers, and feces scattered across its slopes. This not only damages the natural environment but also presents health hazards to local communities.

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Mary Scrantin

Written by Mary Scrantin

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