Cleanup duty on the world’s tallest mountains should only be handled by the experts, Nepalese Sherpas are warning.
A $7.5 million government plan to have the Nepalese army clear nearly 40 tons of waste from Mount Everest and five other mammoth peaks is drawing criticism from those who know the terrain best.
“They should mobilize Sherpas to clean up garbage from higher elevations,” Kami Rita, who has scaled Everest a record 24 times, told the BBC. “Only Sherpa guides and porters can do that. They should be given proper compensation to clean up the mountains.”
Nepal’s army removed around 11 tons of waste from the region last year.
“We are learning from our mistakes and working hard to clean up the mountains, including the higher elevations,” Nepali Army spokesman Bigyan Dev Pandey told the BBC.
The six peaks targeted in the 2020 cleanup effort — Everest, Lhotse, Pumori, Amadablam, Makalu, and Dhaulagiri — are often turned by climbers into dumping sites for materials like empty oxygen canisters, climbing gear, and food waste.
Sometimes the frozen bodies of those who didn’t survive the perilous journeys have been found near the summits.
“It’s really hard to bring back heavy cylinders or dead bodies from the higher camps,” Ang Tshering, the former president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, said in an interview with the BBC. “Sherpas often risk their lives to do so. Most of the iced bodies weigh [hundreds of pounds], and that looks impossible for Sherpas to bring down.”