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Surprising Science

Mount Everest Poses a Challenge in Human Waste Management

Everest is presenting a new challenge to man: how to dispose of human feces on the world’s tallest mountain.

Everest is presenting a new challenge to man, according to Reuters‘ Gopal Sharma: how to dispose of human feces on the world’s tallest mountain. 

Over 700 people frequent Everest every year to find purpose, adventure, or a little of both. While making the two-month climb, people can expel quite a bit of human waste before reaching the summit. Where does it all go? On the mountain, of course. But after years of tourists frequenting Everest, since it was conquered in 1953, there’s been an unhealthy accumulation of waste.

Peel back a layer of snow near one of Everest’s four base camps and you’ll find a heap of human poo. Climbers typically dig holes to do their number twos, but even that’s not enough after years of people squatting near the same camps and trails. The ideal to “leave no trace” in this manner isn’t sustainable anymore. Nepal’s government has said that they’ve yet to find a permanent solution.

As a temporary Band-Aid, though, the government of Nepal has imposed a rule that states climbers must bring back at least 18 pounds of waste to base camp. When they weigh in at the end, if the number does not exceed or match it, climbers will lose their $4,000 security deposit left before their ascent. Of course, climbers aren’t particularly enthused by the idea of carting around a bag of poo during their journey there and back. Some of the magic might get lost, but it’s a necessary step to preserve the mountain’s beauty.

It’s either that or risk spreading disease on the world’s highest peak. Dawa Steven Sherpa, who has been leading expeditions up the summit since 2008, said:

“It is a health hazard and the issue needs to be addressed.”

This problem may even be beyond the king of dirty jobs, Mike Rowe.

Read more at Reuters.

Photo Credit: emifaulk/Flickr


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