Picking up trash on Mount Everest
Would you climb 8,848 meters to pick up other people's waste, discarded climbing gear and even the occasional dead body? This is what the Eco Everest Expedition sets out to do every year.
Professional mountain climbers like the Everest base camp about as much as hermits enjoy Oktoberfest. There are hundreds of tents at 5,600 meters altitude -- it’s noisy and full of people.
Garbage is a hot topic here, at the base the world’s highest mountain. Paul Thelen has been here twice, and knows the situation. “You’re surrounded by filth,” he says over the phone, without the faintest trace of irritation or repugnance in his voice. Then again, as an active 68-year-old, Thelen has seen a lot in life.
He and a friend, Eberhard Schaaf, a mountain climber like himself, have come to Nepal to clean up garbage. The men are part of the annual Eco Everest Expedition (EEE) that has been clearing trash from the camp and the path to the top of the mountain since 2008. So far, these expeditions have collected over 13 tons of garbage, including several hundred kilos of excrement and a few corpses.
Thelen and Schaaf are the first Germans to take part in the expedition, which this year is made up of 16 climbers from seven countries. They will be on site until the end of May. And they want to get to the top – all 8,848 meters of it.
It’s a dangerous endeavour. The Germans say they have two goals: to climb up and then to come back down.