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Nepalese climbers cleaning up Mount Everest

Nepal is one of the poorest countries of the world where tourism plays a significant economic role. Despite the rich Nepalese culture and religious traditions, the most significant tourism attractions are the Himalayan Mountains and Mount Everest. During the climbing season between March and May, the population of the Khumbu region at the base of Mount Everest increases from around 40,000 to 700,000 – including tourists and seasonal Nepalese workers (See Cristen Conger /McDougall).

However, there exist serious concerns about the environmental impact that decades of mountaineering has caused to Himalayan Mountains and especially to the world’s highest peak Mount Everest. Environmental activists explain that Everest is littered during increased amount of expeditions, including human waste and mountaineers’ corpses, which do not decompose because of the extreme cold. Even though the climbers spend tens of thousands of dollars trying to reach the summit, few pay much attention to the rubbish, such as oxygen bottles, tin cans, batteries, old prayer flags, ropes and tents they leave behind. As Everest has given fame to many climbers, they could be expected to respect and reserve the sanctity of the mountain.

Deepesh Shrestha (AFP/Yahoo News) reports about a unique cleaning operation targeted to mitigate the negative environmental impacts of mountaineering. A group of 20 Nepalese top climbers is planning a high-risk expedition to clean up Everest. The team is led by seven-time Everest summiteer Namgyal Sherpa, 30, who has set the target to clear more than two tones of rubbish discarded by mountaineers. While there have been before other attempts to clean up parts of Everest, will this project be the first to penetrate into the so-called “death zone” above 8,000 metres, where there is not enough oxygen to sustain human life. Sherpa and his team will begin their ascent in late April, when a small window between spring and the summer monsoon offers the best conditions for climbing the 8,848-metre peak. This ambitious initiative has won the support of Nepal’s prime minister, and now the team is trying to raise 15 million rupees (200,000 dollars) to fund the project.

Nepal’s Sherpa people are an ethnic group living in Himalayas. They are Buddhists who migrated from eastern Nepal within the last 300-400 years and they have long revered the world’s highest peak as sacred – as “The Mother of the World”. Namgyal Sherpa, 30, explains to AFP; Everest is losing her beauty. – There is only one Everest and we must preserve it. We need the mountain for our future generations.

Text: Emily H?ckert