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The Revolting Everest Human Waste Problem

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Mount Everest, Earth’s highest peak, faces a unique environmental challenge: human waste left by climbers. To combat this, the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee has introduced special poo bags to help climbers carry their waste back to base camp. This initiative aims to preserve the pristine conditions of the mountain and promote responsible climbing practices for the future. Intrigued?

The Highest Peak

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Vixit

Mount Everest stands at an epic 8,849m and is found in the Himalayas in Nepal. Being the highest mountain on the planet makes it appealing to serious climbers. All these visitors have one thing in common – what they leave behind.

Nature’s Tourist Attraction

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Yongyut Kumsri

Approximately 800 people reach the summit each year. Unfortunately, every single one needs to poop.

No Easy Feat

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Meiqianbao

While around 40,000 people hike to Everest’s base camp each year, only around 2% of them reach the top, which shows that this is a serious undertaking. Taking one of the 18 routes to the top requires a permit and a professional guide or sherpa.

A Marathon, Not a Sprint

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Yongyut Kumsri

The trek to the base camp takes around 19 days, and the rest of the journey to the summit can be expected to take around 40 days. 

Human Nature

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Tara Shankar Snai

That means a lot of strength, planning, and poop. According to the BBC, each climber will deposit around 250g a day, meaning a whopping total of 8,000kg a year.

Where Does It All Go?

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Slepitssskaya

Unsurprisingly, there isn’t any plumbing on Everest. Beyond the base camp, one generally digs a hole. However, some parts of the mountain are more rock than snow, meaning there is nowhere to dig. This means seeing “deposits” in plain view on the mountainside isn’t uncommon. And those 8,000kg certainly add up!

Time for Action

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Olga Danylenko

The municipality of Pasang Llhamu contains most of Everest, and its officials know the problem. They note that the extreme temperatures on Everest prevent the waste from degrading, meaning it needs to be proactively dealt with. 

Not Just Everest

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Virrage Images

The nature of the issue means that it affects not only Everest but other peaks, too. There are 14 peaks in the world over 8,000m; those with regular visitors are all familiar with this sticky issue. 

A Plan of Prevention

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / fizkes

Thankfully, the fact that this problem has been seen elsewhere means there is already a solution ready to go. The NGO Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC) is obtaining 8,000 poo bags from the US.

Not Just a Bag

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / foras05

These bags aren’t like the ones you might take when you walk the dog; they are specially designed for these conditions. They contain chemicals and powders to combat the odor and solidify the contents so they can be returned to base camp with minimal inconvenience. 

Bring It Back

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / branislavpudar

The plan is to give each climber two bags for their trip, each to be used 5-6 times, according to the SPCC and bbc.com. While perhaps not the most pleasant thought, carrying your waste and returning it to the base camp will make a huge difference.

A Growing Problem

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Dmitry Molchanov

With the growing popularity of activities like climbing, hiking, and “conquering” nature, it’s almost guaranteed that Everest will see an increase in the number of visitors each year, meaning this problem will only worsen if it is not handled now.

A Government Plan

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Jason Maehl

Nepal’s government has already implemented several restrictions to ensure climbers’ safety and protect their mountains. The “poop” plan will work alongside these measures, such as the requirement to use a licensed trekking guide.

Sherpas Are Essential

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Vixit

No one climbs Everest without the help of a Sherpa. One Sherpa, Kami Rita of Nepal, holds the record – reaching the summit an impressive 29 times.

A Magical Location

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Vixit

Everest offers stunning views and a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but the backdrop of Nepal shouldn’t be overlooked. Nepal has National Parks, 8 cultural world heritage sites, year-round festivals, and incredible cuisine.

More to See

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / saiko3p

If you are lucky enough to visit Nepal, consider visiting Pokhara, a city at 900m with some beautiful cultural sights. Alternatively, Chitwan National Park offers the chance to see some rare and protected wildlife.

Mountains Galore

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / jpanv

Nepal boasts 8 of the world’s 14 “eight-thousanders” (mountains over 8,000m), meaning Everest isn’t the only place to get a climbing fix. 

Everest’s History

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Olga Danylenko

You can hardly miss the tallest peak in the world, but how do you confirm that it is, in fact, the tallest? Mathematician Radhanath Sikdar calculated Everest’s height in 1852, but it was named after Sir George Everest, who gave it the catchy moniker “Peak 15”, according to globaladventurechallenges.com.

Ever-Growing

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Olga Danylenko

In 1856, Everest was measured at 8,840m. So, where do the other 8m come from?! Due to the continuous shift of tectonic plates, Everest grows around 44mm a year.

A Promising Future

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Yongyut Kumsri

Thanks to the efforts of various charities and government bodies, we can expect Mount Everest to become a cleaner and safer place. Perhaps it’s time to start training to conquer one of nature’s most exciting challenges!

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The post The Revolting Everest Human Waste Problem was republished on Passing Thru with permission from The Green Voyage.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Olga Danylenko.

For transparency, this content was partly developed with AI assistance and carefully curated by an experienced editor to be informative and ensure accuracy.

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