Over 24,000 Pounds of Trash Removed From Everest as Cleanup Crew Unearth Bodies

By Tiffany Meier

A cleanup crew has pulled off four dead bodies and 24,200 pounds (11,000 kilos) of trash from Mount Everest over a span of 45 days, according to Nepalese government officials.

The cleaners spent weeks picking up “food wrappings, cans, bottles and empty oxygen cylinders” from Everest base camp, according to The Times of India.

Helicopters then flew the trash out to Kathmandu, according to The Associated Press.

“Some of the garbage was handed over to the NGO ‘Blue Waste to Value,’ which recycles waste products,” Bigyan Dev Pandey, a spokesperson for the Nepal Army, told The Times of India. He added that it coincided with World Environment Day.

Since 1953, when Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay first successfully scaled the world’s tallest mountain, several hundred people set out each year in pursuit of the “Dream of Everest.”

File image of Mount Everest taken from the village of Tembuche in the Kumbh region of north-eastern Nepal
Mount Everest as seen from the village of Tembuche in the Kumbh region of northeastern Nepal on April 19, 2015. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images)

However, with so many climbers, there is an increase in trash left behind and longer waiting times, which increases the risk of death.

Pandey told The Times of India that among the four dead bodies recovered, one included “that of a Russian mountaineer and a Nepali climber.” The other two are as-yet unidentified, he added.

With 11 reported deaths in 2019, this year has been Everest’s deadliest since 2015, according to CBS News. The most dangerous part of the trek is the so-called “Death Zone,” above 26,247 feet (8,000 meters), where conditions are too hazardous for humans to survive for long, according to CNN.

The matter gained international attention after a mountaineer named Rohtash Khileri posted videos on Instagram, showing a long line of people in the frigid cold waiting for their ascension.

Another mountaineer, Robin Haynes Fisher from the UK, expressed his concerns about the imminent dangers of too many people making the trek on his Instagram page.

“With a single route to the summit, delays caused by overcrowding could prove fatal so I am hopeful my decision to go for the 25th will mean fewer people. Unless of course, everyone else plays the same waiting game,” he wrote on May 19.

View this post on Instagram

Climbed up to camp 3, 7500m but the jet stream had returned closing the summit after only 2 days so I descended to basecamp. Around 100 climbers did summit in those 2 days with sadly 2 deaths, an Indian man found dead in his tent at camp 4 and an Irish climber lost, assumed fallen, on his descent. A go fund me page has been set up for a rescue bid for the Irish climber but it is a well meaning but futile gesture. Condolences to both their friends and families. Both deaths happened above 8000m in the so called death zone where the majority of deaths of foreign climbers happen. Around 700 more people will be looking to summit from Tuesday the 21st onwards. My revised plan, subject to weather that at the moment looks promising, is to return up the mountain leaving basecamp Tuesday the 21st 0230 and, all being well and a lot of luck, arriving on the summit the morning of Saturday the 25th. I will be climbing with my Sherpa, Jangbu who is third on the all time list with an incredible 19 summits. The other 4 members of our team decided to remain on the mountain and are looking to summit on the 21st. My cough had started to return at altitude so I couldn’t wait with them at altitude for the window to open without the risk of physically deteriorating too much. Furthermore as I had missed due to sickness the earlier camp 3 rotation best practice was for me to descend to allow my body to recover from the new altitude high so I could come back stronger. This was not an easy decision as the 13 hours climbing from basecamp to camp 2 in a day was the hardest physical and mental challenge I had ever done, now I have it all to do again. Finally I am hopeful to avoid the crowds on summit day and it seems like a number of teams are pushing to summit on the 21st. With a single route to the summit delays caused by overcrowding could prove fatal so I am hopeful my decision to go for the 25th will mean fewer people. Unless of course everyone else plays the same waiting game. #everest #everest2019 #lhotseface

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However, while he did successfully scale Everest on the 25th, Fisher never made it back.

The 44-year-old collapsed and died on the descent from the summit in the low-oxygen “death zone” area, according to USA Today.

Other climbers say the rise in the death toll is a result of inexperience.

“You have to qualify to do the Ironman,” Alan Arnette told The New York Times. “But you don’t have to qualify to climb the highest mountain in the world? What’s wrong with this picture?”

mount everest climbers
Mountaineers ascend toward the summit of Mount Everest up the south face from Nepal on May 16, 2018. (Gesman Tamang/AFP/Getty Images)

“This is not going to improve,” guide Lukas Furtenbach told the The New York Times. He added that he recently relocated his climbers to the Chinese side of Everest because of overcrowding in Nepal.

“There’s a lot of corruption in the Nepali government,” he said. “They take whatever they can get.”

This year Nepal issued 381 climbing permits, a record high, despite complaints about safety issues, according to multiple reports.

Victor Westerkamp contributed to this report.