By Sam Taylor
KATHMANDU: A young mountaineer from Nepal has claimed a major breakthrough in his bid to promote eco-friendly climbing on Mount Everest, with his team reaching extraordinary heights of cleanliness.
Expedition leader Dawa Steven Sherpa has made it his mission to clean up the world’s highest peak, and at the same time revolutionise big mountain climbing by giving out some badly needed toilet training.
“Nobody set out to destroy the mountain, it’s just a problem that slowly crept up,” said Sherpa, just back in Kathmandu after his Eco Everest team took what could be the ultimate personal hygiene challenge.
The idea of the expedition, he said, was to leave nothing behind — not even a yellowed pee-hole in the snow.
Decades of heavy-weight expeditions have badly soiled Everest, which is now littered with human excrement that cannot bio-degrade because of the icy temperatures, the corpses of unlucky adventurers and tonnes of garbage.
“When mountaineering started, there was only one expedition per year, so they didn’t bother about their waste as they thought the impact was minimal.
But as mountaineering got more popular, that same attitude continued,” he said.
“People just threw their trash and human waste into crevasses.” The result, he lamented, is that the 8,848-metre sacred mountain is now dotted with unpleasant surprises.
“There are some examples of climbers who chopped off some ice to melt for water, only to find there was human excrement in it,” said the 24-year-old.
“At one of the camps where I set up my tent, when the ice started to melt after a couple of weeks, we found we had pitched on a toilet tip. It does not really decompose because it’s so cold and dry,” Sherpa said.
But last month Sherpa’s team, made up of local support staff and 11 clients, tested Clean Mountain Cans — essentially sturdy, small plastic barrels developed in the United States.—AFP