February 29, 2024

Only a few bring their excrement back in biodegradable bags while climbing Mt Everest.

Mount Everest climbers have been asked to clear their poop and bring it back to the base camp so that it can be disposed of, as per a report in the BBC. The decision has been taken by the Pasang Lhamu rural municipality since the “mountains have begun to stink” because the excrement does not fully degrade due to extreme temperatures in the region.

Mingma Sherpa, Chairman of Pasang Lhamu rural municipality, told the outlet, “We are getting complaints that human stools are visible on rocks and some climbers are falling sick. This is not acceptable and erodes our image.” The people who want to climb the highest mountain in the world and neighbouring Mount Lhotse will need to purchase “poop bags” at the base camp. These bags will be “checked upon their return”.

Notably, during the climbing season, mountaineers spend long durations at base camp where separate tents are made for toilets and other necessities. However, they tend to dig a hole to poop once they begin climbing but certain areas have less snowfall, necessitating climbers to defecate in the open. Only a few individuals bring their excrement back in biodegradable bags when climbing the Mount Everest Summit. 

“Waste remains a major issue, especially in higher-up camps where you can’t reach,” Chhiring Sherpa, Chief Executive Officer of the non-government organisation (NGO) Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee, said. Several cleaning campaigns have been conducted in the region including an annual drive led by the Nepali Army. According to the organisation, there are around three tonnes of human waste between Camp One at the base of Everest and South Kol, known as Camp Four, which is closer to the peak.

International mountain guide Stephan Keck, who frequently organises Mount Everest expeditions, claimed that South Col had earned a reputation as an “open toilet”. “There is hardly any ice and snow, so you will see human stools all around,” Mr Keck told the BBC.

For an expected 400 international climbers and 800 support workers, the NGO is now importing over 8,000 poop bags from the US in preparation for the forthcoming climbing season, which begins in March. The chemicals and powders in these poo bags solidify human waste and make it largely odourless. 

Notably, it is estimated that a climber excretes 250 grams of waste every day on average. In order to reach the summit, they often stay in the upper camps for two weeks. “With that as the basis, we plan to give them two bags, each of which they can use five to six times,” Mr Chhiring added.

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