Mount Everest, the high-altitude rubbish dump

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This handout picture taken on May 20, 2018 and released on June 12 by Damian Benegas shows discarded climbing equipment and rubbish scattered around Camp 4 of Mount Everest. (Damian Benegas/AFP)
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This handout picture taken on May 20, 2018 and released on June 12 by Damian Benegas shows discarded climbing equipment and rubbish scattered around Camp 4 of Mount Everest. (Damian Benegas/AFP)
Updated 17 June 2018

Mount Everest, the high-altitude rubbish dump

  • Fluorescent tents, discarded climbing equipment, empty gas canisters and even human excrement litter the well-trodden route to the summit of the 8,848-meter (29,029-foot) peak
  • Environmentalists are concerned that the pollution on Everest is also affecting water sources down in the valley

KATMANDU: Decades of commercial mountaineering have turned Mount Everest into the world’s highest rubbish dump as an increasing number of big-spending climbers pay little attention to the ugly footprint they leave behind.
Fluorescent tents, discarded climbing equipment, empty gas canisters and even human excrement litter the well-trodden route to the summit of the 8,848-meter (29,029-foot) peak.
“It is disgusting, an eyesore,” Pemba Dorje Sherpa, who has summited Everest 18 times, told AFP. “The mountain is carrying tons of waste.”
As the number of climbers on the mountain has soared — at least 600 people have scaled the world’s highest peak so far this year alone — the problem has worsened.
Meanwhile, melting glaciers caused by global warming are exposing trash that has accumulated on the mountain since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made the first successful summit 65 years ago.
Efforts have been made. Five years ago Nepal implemented a $4,000 rubbish deposit per team that would be refunded if each climber brought down at least eight kilogrammes (18 pounds) of waste.
On the Tibet side of the Himalayan mountain, they are required to bring down the same amount and are fined $100 per kilogramme if they don’t.
In 2017 climbers in Nepal brought down nearly 25 tons of trash and 15 tons of human waste — the equivalent of three double-decker buses — according to the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC).
This season even more was carried down but this is just a fraction of the rubbish dumped each year, with only half of climbers lugging down the required amounts, the SPCC says.
Instead many climbers opt to forfeit the deposit, a drop in the ocean compared to the $20,000-$100,000 they will have forked out for the experience.
Pemba shrugs that many just don’t care. Compounding the problem, some officials accept small bribes to turn a blind eye, he said.
“There is just not enough monitoring at the high camps to ensure the mountain stays clean,” he said.
The Everest industry has boomed in the last two decades.
This has sparked concerns of overcrowding as well as fears that ever more inexperienced mountaineers are being drawn by low-cost expedition operators desperate for customers.
This inexperience is exacerbating the rubbish problem, warns Damian Benegas, who has been climbing Everest for over two decades with twin brother Willie.
Sherpas, high altitude guides and workers drawn from the indigenous local ethnic group, carry heavier items including tents, extra oxygen cylinders and ropes up the mountain — and then down again.
Previously most climbers would take their own personal kit like extra clothes, food, a sleeping bag as well as supplemental oxygen.
But now, many climbers can’t manage, leaving the Sherpas to carry everything.
“They have to carry the client’s gear so they are unable to carry down rubbish,” Benegas said.
He added that operators need to employ more high-altitude workers to ensure all clients, their kit and rubbish get safely up and down the mountain.
Environmentalists are concerned that the pollution on Everest is also affecting water sources down in the valley.
At the moment the raw sewage from base camp is carried to the next village — a one-hour walk — and dumped into trenches.
This then “gets flushed downhill during the monsoon into the river,” said Garry Porter, a US engineer who together with his team might have the answer.
They are considering installing a biogas plant near Everest base camp that would turn climber poo into a useful fertilizer.
Another solution, believes Ang Tsering Sherpa, former president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, would be a dedicated rubbish collection team.
His expedition operator Asian Trekking, which has been running “Eco Everest Expeditions” for the last decade, has brought down over 18 tons of trash during that time in addition to the eight-kilo climber quota.
And last month a 30-strong cleanup team retrieved 8.5 tons of waste from the northern slopes, China’s state-run Global Times reported.
“It is not an easy job. The government needs to motivate groups to clean up and enforce rules more strictly,” Ang said.


Alaska man discovers 50-year-old message in bottle from Russian Navy

Updated 19 August 2019

Alaska man discovers 50-year-old message in bottle from Russian Navy

  • Then Russian Navy Capt. Anatolii Prokofievich Botsanenko wrote the letter when he was a 36-year-old aboard the Sulak
ANCHORAGE, Alaska: A man discovered a 50-year-old letter in a bottle from the Russian Navy on the shores of western Alaska.
Tyler Ivanoff found the handwritten Russian letter early this month while gathering firewood near Shishmaref about 600 miles (966 kilometers) northwest of Anchorage, television station KTUU reported.
“I was just looking for firewood when I found the bottle,” Tyler Ivanoff said. “When I found the bottle, I had to use a screwdriver to get the message out.”
Ivanoff shared his discovery on Facebook where Russian speakers translated the message to be a greeting from a Cold War Russian sailor dated June 20, 1969. The message included an address and a request for a response from the person who finds it.
Reporters from the state-owned Russian media network, Russia-1, tracked down the original writer, Capt. Anatolii Prokofievich Botsanenko, KTUU reported.
He was skeptical he wrote the note until he saw his signature on the bottom.
“There — exactly!” he exclaimed.
The message was sent while the then 36-year-old was aboard the Sulak, Botsanenko said. Botsanenko shed tears when the Russian television reporter told him the Sulak was sold for scrap in the 1990s.
Botsanenko also showed the reporter some souvenirs from his time on the ship, including the autograph of the wife of a famous Russian spy and Japanese liquor bottles, the latter kept over his wife’s protests.
Ivanoff’s discovery of the bottle was first reported by Nome radio station KNOM.