Lonely Planet Writer

Nepal climbers to clean up earthquake damaged Everest Base Camp

The ascent of Mt Everest has long been held up as the pinnacle of human achievement, but for people living around the world’s highest mountain, a more pressing issue is the rubbish climbers leave behind. Every year, around 1000 climbers and 40,000 trekkers hike through the mountain valleys of Solukhumbu to reach Everest Base Camp, the tent village at the foot of the Khumbu Icefall in Nepal, leaving behind tonnes of rubbish, from empty food packets to used oxygen cylinders.

"Base camp tents, Everest, Khumbu region, Nepal"
“Base camp tents, Everest, Khumbu region, Nepal” Image by Space Images/GettyRF

The rubbish problem continues all the way up to the summit of the world’s highest peak, with huge piles of discarded equipment at each of the transit camps used by climbers. After years of gentle reminders to climbers to bring rubbish back down the mountain, the government of Nepal is finally taking action, installing enormous canvas waste sacks at Camp 2 – the first overnight stop above Base Camp – to collect the detritus left behind by mountaineering groups.

The helicopters that deliver ropes and other essential supplies to mountaineers will be used to transport the rubbish bags to lower elevations, where the waste can be trekked out by porters and processed for recycling or disposal. Trekking organisations such as Himalayan Experience have committed to paying US$2 for every kilo of rubbish transported down the mountain, providing a much needed financial incentive to tidy up the Himalaya.

Precise estimates for the amount of rubbish on Mt Everest are hard to come by, but climbers have previously carried down more than 16 tonnes of trash, without making a significant dent in the rubbish pile. Sadly, even more debris was created by the 2015 earthquake, when a deadly avalanche at Base Camp killed 18 and spread rubbish far down the mountainside.

Trekkers can do their bit by bringing in as little as possible and carrying out as much as possible. Remember, if you don’t carry out every empty packet and tin you carry in, somebody else will have to!

Get the top travel news stories delivered straight to your inbox every weekday by signing up to our newsletter.