Mount Everest? Or Mount Human Wasteland?

Recently, I saw in the local paper a brief article on Mount Everest. Now, when I think of Human Rights issues the last place I would think something like that would occur is on top of the world’s tallest peak. Unfortunately, that is exactly where the next issue I’m going to share takes place: on top of a mountain. But first, a little background info on Mt. Everest:

As the tallest mountain in the world (with an elevation of 29,029 feet or 8,848 meters), approximately 700 climbers or more spend two months attempting to summit, or succeed, the peak. Located in the Himalayas, there are more than just professional mountaineers that spend time on the mountain. Sherpas from Nepal are hired as professional guides and also spend the entire season going up and down the mountain. With all these people camping out for months on end, it’s bound to cause some problems over time.

What are those problems and how are they connected to human rights? Remember, 700 people camp out and climb Mount Everest every year now. Take that combined with it first being climbed in 1953 by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary (about 4,000 climbers have successfully made it while hundreds have also died), it shouldn’t come as much of as a surprise that so much garbage and feces has piled up. Nonetheless, that was still my reaction when I read the paper.

Normally, the climbers will dig holes to go to the bathroom in since there are no actual toilets available once one leaves the base camp area. One solution to keeping the mountain and its camps relatively clean over the last year has been the requirement of a $4,000 deposit that you get back after you bring down 18 lbs. (8 kg) of trash. Yet, in my opinion, this isn’t a permanent solution. The Washington Post reported that nearly “26,500 pounds of human excrement [is left on Everest] each season…with most of it being carried down to a frozen lake bed and village (Gorak Shep) by the Sherpas.”

Not only have some climbers stated that they refuse to even attempt to boil the water to get rid of the germs, but they’ve also reported that the main water supply has been polluted. Sherpas have even shared how the Yaks fall into the pits even after the pits have been moved elsewhere. “…I think it takes so many years to disintegrate because of the cold climate the pollution will remain there for many years” stated Sherpa Pemba Nima.

I would recommend halting or shortening the climbing season, however I know at the same time that that would be harmful to the Sherpas and their families who require the money to survive, as well as to the government who receives so much money from the tourism it brings to Nepal. Hopefully, the government will soon step in further on this matter and that the solution can be fixed sooner rather than later. Especially since I don’t foresee professional mountaineers to be deterred from any attempts at Mount Everest.

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