Tarnished Everest: Corpses and Canisters at the Roof of the World

Green Politics Assignment One Neil Palansky & Avi Forchheimer

and Mother Nature willing. and high altitude experience put a summit on Mount Everest at the pinnacle of their climbing careers. to the Mahalangur section of the Himalayas from all over the world. training. The name alone has a connotation of mystery and achievement – a dangerous icon. Unfortunately. Some rightfully work their way onto the mountain – years of climbing. The allure of summiting Everest has drawn thousands of climbers. they return to base camp alive. both professional and amateur. This paper will analyze the ecological footprint being left behind by these expeditions. Adventure tourism companies run by professional high altitude climbers charge upwards of $65. this is not the typical climber of modern day Everest. They get there on their own. We will see that the increased amount of human traffic in the region is causing visual and ecological pollution as well strong deforestation in a region already struggling with inadequate plant growth due to its high altitude. 2003).Tarnished Everest: Corpses and Canisters at the Roof of the World Mount Everest.000 dollars to guide amateur climbers. With the exception of the most elite climbers on the planet. the top of the world. most people who attempt to summit Mount Everest use bottled oxygen. they sustain themselves. where the level of Oxygen in the air is one third of . some with little or no climbing experience at all. These oxygen containers are stored at various high altitude camps by the local Sherpa population for use by the climbers when they get to the higher portion of the mountain. to the tallest summit on earth (Millington.

unable to biodegrade in the atmosphere. these canisters are simply abandoned on the mountain after being emptied of Oxygen. the deceased climber’s equipment. leaving their tents and supplies to blow off of the mountain and into the Himalayan ecosystem (ibid). and remain on the mountain as well. and have begun to pile up considerably on the slopes (Stevens . mostly composed of high tech materials which assure warmth for high altitude camps are also left behind. Additional detriment has been inflicted on the environment in the Kumbu region and to the mountain itself. Another major environmental problem is the increased deforestation. climbers will abandon all but the most necessary items in order to seek safety on the lower parts of the mountain. The lack of Oxygen on the upper slopes of the mountain combined with faulty calculations in acclimatization time has left many climbers dead over the years. There is an increased . 2003). There have been various initiatives enacted by the Nepalese government regarding financial compensation and heavy deposits placed on the oxygen containers. This has become another major issue in the lower and upper Everest Regions. 1993). under the condition that every canister that goes up the mountain comes back down to be recycled (Stevens . in a severe storm. Due to the strenuous and life threatening nature of an Everest climb. 2003). Furthermore. These materials are made to withstand the extreme cold and wind of one of the most hostile environments on the planet. Additionally. and are thus highly synthetic. The corpses are simply too heavy to be carried down to the base camp single handedly by porters and are sadly left behind in plain sight of future climbers (Millington.that at sea level.

The local lodge owners simply cut down trees and either sell them to expeditions for a hefty profit or use it to cook for and provide heat for their lodgers.amount of climbers. While the local authorities have banned expeditions from cutting down trees for firewood or other purposes. The Chinese government is notorious for charging much lower permit fees for climbing the North Face. but the trek from Kathmandu to Everest Base Camp have become very popular as well. 2003). woodlands and alpine brush are beginning to diminish (Stevens . the Sherpa Community. Stanford. Adams & Nurbu. Furthermore. this still has not been put into effect on the local residents. The Chinese Government controls the North Face of the mountain. Essentially. the adventure companies and the climbers themselves. dense forest areas are now being heavily deforested due to increased tourism activities (ibid). Today the average lodge utilizes 4 times the amount of firewood than the traditional local Sherpa household thus effectively quadrupling their ecological foot print for fire wood alone. Nepalese Government. the high altitude lodges are placing further pressure on the low alpine regions as they are beginning to import firewood from the lower regions via porters in order to balance their deficit. as little as a quarter of the price that it costs a climber to obtain a permit from the . (Pawson. As a result. and is truly one of the most detrimental stakeholders in the pollution of Mount Everest. areas to heat and campfires to fuel. explorers and tourists not only wanting to reach the summit of Everest. 1984). The major stakeholders in the ecological preservation of the Everest Region are the Chinese Government. much of the high altitude forest. All these stakeholders have self interests that fail to comply and reach a feasible solution. The lodges manned by the locals have increased demands of food to prepare.

more spent oxygen containers. they now disregard their traditional Buddhist customs and cause detrimental damage to the forest (Stevens. the Sherpa community was very respectful of the forest and adhered to a forest management system based on the Buddhist belief. Traditionally. and more debris in general as the Chinese government wishes to administer as many permits as possible. bare bones tour operators and independent climbers who wouldn’t be able to otherwise afford climbing the mountain from the Nepalese side. The North Face of Mount Everest is more exposed. with no regard for their detriment to the environment. On the Nepalese side of the mountain resides the Sherpa Community. and technically more difficult to climb.Nepalese side. Since Nepalese nationalization of the forest in 1957 under the Panchayat system. more dangerous. The North Face of Everest is littered with more bodies. due to the substantially less expensive permit fees. in exchange for a hefty profit and a rebellious attitude to the Nepalese Government. However. with no regard for the environment – they have even paved a road to base camp to make the mountain even easier to reach (Stevens. This is done in an effort to bring as many climbers to the Chinese side as possible. Today. which enforces environmental regulations and Oxygen bottle deposits. 1993). most climbers are required to leave behind a large cash deposit before climbing which is returned to them when the appropriate authorities are certain that they have removed all . it attracts budget. 1993). the local community began to feel alienated by the new set of rules and thus began disregarding their traditional respect for the forest. Other important stakeholders are the climbers and the expedition companies. This disrespect for the forest has led the local Sherpa community to carelessly sell firewood to expeditions.

However. 90% of which is made up of trekkers in the Everest region. as this would cut down on both the governments revenue coming from the permits issuance. The climbers and expedition companies therefore have the incentive to leave behind trash as not to incur expenses for extra porters and for their deposits that potentially won’t be returned (Stevens. due to the risky altitude. 1993). provides livelihoods for nearly the entire local Sherpa population which they earn by operating. and the lost tourism dollars from Trekkers who would holiday elsewhere if they were unable to obtain access to the mountain and their interaction with the local authorities has been in decline since nationalization of their traditional territories. the authorities can only verify trash that is brought back down to the base camp and have no real grasp of what is being left on the actual mountain due to its difficult height. . managing and outfitting trekking and climbing trips (Stevens.their accumulated waste is removed from Nepal and sent back to their home countries. It is not in the government’s interest to limit the number of permits it issues. 2003). Tourism. This revenue is extremely significant in an economy such as Nepal.

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