After every party it’s time to clean up and Mount Everest is no different. The record number of climbers crowding the world’s highest mountain this season has left a government cleanup crew grappling with how to clear away everything from abandoned tents to human waste that threatens drinking water.
Budget expedition companies charge as little as $30,000 per climber, cutting costs including waste removal. Everest has so much garbage — depleted oxygen cylinders, food packaging, rope — that climbers use the trash as a kind of signpost. But this year’s haul from an estimated 700 climbers, guides and porters on the mountain has been a shock to the ethnic Sherpas who worked on the government’s cleanup drive this spring.
Moreover, the tents are littering South Col, or Camp 4, which, at 8,000 meters (26,240 feet) is the highest campsite on Everest, just below the summit. The high winds at that elevation have scattered the tents and trash everywhere.