Mt. Everest Trash Problem: Is Garbage Taking Over World's Tallest Peak?

By Philip Ross on May 29, 2013 3:33 PM EDT

mt everest trash problem
The Mt. Everest trash problem is a big, heaping mess, with 50 tons of rubble removed from the slopes of the world’s tallest peak every year. (Photo: Reuters)

Mt. Everest's trash problem is getting out of control. On Monday, a team from India and Nepal unloaded almost 9,000 pounds of trash from the shoulders of the Himalayan giant. It took one and a half months for the team to clear the debris, which included various effects discarded by mountaineers over the years.

Is the world's tallest mountain peak also the world's tallest pile of garbage?

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Traffic Jams On Mt. Everest Slopes

Sixty years ago in May, New Zealander explorer Edmund Hillary and his guide, Tenzing Norgay, a Nepalese Sherpa, became the first two people to step foot on the Roof of the World's highest point. Norgay went on to lead a number of other expeditions, including the first American tourists, up the mountain's steep slopes.

Today, over 3,000 people have summited the 29,029-foot-tall behemoth. IScience Times reported that many of the approximately 150 people who reach the top of Everest every year pay tens of thousands of dollars to do so. Delays, due to climbers lining up to descend or ascend harder sections of the trail, are increasingly common.

At one section of the climb, called Hillary Step, only one person can go up or down at a time. This is where most of the bottlenecks on Mt. Everest occur. Business Insider reports that climbers often wait for hours to pass this narrow strip of the mountain.

The traffic jams at Hillary Step have gotten so bad that the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation has even proposed putting a ladder there to help with the congestion.

International Business Times reports that because of increased overcrowding on Mt. Everest, the government of Kathmandu is considering imposing quotas on the number of climbers allowed on the mountain at any one time.

50 Tons Of Junk A Year

One unintended and unfortunate byproduct of all these mountaineers is the junk they leave behind. According to Daily Mail, climbers leave up to 50 tons of trash on the slopes of Mt. Everest every year.

The rubble, including used oxygen canisters, climbing gear and food packaging, threatens to unhinge the fragile Himalayan ecosystem. It's also a nuisance for the villagers whose homes are on the Himalayan slopes.

While waste removal efforts have been going on for some time (Japanese climbers removed about 1,000 pounds of tins, old tens, medicines and food from the mountain back in 2007), large-scale clean up efforts began in 2010 when a team of clean up experts decided to tackle Mt. Everest's trash problem. According to Daily Mail, the group has introduced safe waste management systems for both tourists and local villagers, and has installed some 15 waste treatment facilities throughout the area.

Read more from iScience Times:

Mount Everest Brawl: Why Did A Mob Of Angry Sherpas With Axes Attack Climbers?

50 Tons Of Garbage Pulled From Pacific Ocean

Hurricane Sandy Trash Tower: 3 Stories Of Garbage Remain In New Jersey

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