by Adam Popescu
In two short days I will be traveling to Nepal for the BBC. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of Everest Base Camp, and I’ll spend the next few weeks looking at the human footprint and surprising levels of trash on the mountain.
An estimated 8 metric tons of waste have been dumped on Mount Everest since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay first summited the 29,029 foot peak back in 1953. Discarded oxygen cylinders, ropes, tents, batteries, medicine, plastic, papers, even beer bottles (more than 56,000 have been collected at the foot of the mountain) pock mark the landscape.
In 2011 the sherpa organization Everest Summiters Association, along with the Nepalese government and other nonprofits, collected 1.5 tons of trash, hauling it down to Kathmandu where some of it was reconfigured and turned into artwork by locals. But theres still an estimated 10 plus tons of trash in the “death zone,” and more at the base of the mountain. And it’s not just a cosmetic problem. The trash buildup has caused routes to become more dangerous, and snow and ice to melt, exposing deep crevasses and risking an increase in the death toll. Out of 5,000 attempts, only 3,000 have succeeded, with more than 200 dying in the process. That’s a rate of about 1 in 10 who don’t ever make it off the mountain Nepalis call Sagarmāthā. Despite the risks, and the hefty price, they don’t stop coming. Climbers spend upwards of $80,000 to pay for travel, gear, porters and sherpas, making it the lifeblood of the mountain’s economy and at the same time a future risk for ecological peril. And that’s what this trip is all about—it’s as much a departure from the norm for me as it is a counter intuitive look at the roof of the world.
I will be traveling with a local outfit called Ace the Himalaya. This trip is an 18 day trek beginning in Kathmandu, climbing higher and higher each day to allow the body to be acclimated properly. The piece will be a look at both the ecological and economic problems here, with a first hand account of just how hard it is to clean up the mountain miles away and up from civilization.
But that doesn’t mean I won’t be off-the-grid completely. I have some top notch gear and tools to share my trip. That includes a Panasonic HC-V720 which has WiFi and live-stream capabilities (meaning wherever I have Internet I can record and stream footage), and a Goal Zero Nomad 13 Solar Panel and recharger which will allow me to charge my devices while I’m trekking during the day (as long as there is sun, which there will be for most of the journey). There is guaranteed wireless in several of the stops on the way up the mountain, and I plan to hold a live web video Q&A and Twitter chat along with other guides and explorers, focused on the conservation and ecology of the mountain. Also hope to blog and put together a dedicated YouTube page to share videos and thoughts, as this will be a wealth of content worth sharing.
Please follow along in real time on Twitter via the #Everest60 hashtag. When I don’t have Internet, I plan to tweet by sending text messages (even if it is expensive).
I’m about 50 hours out from heading to LAX and into a new adventure. 50 hours away…