Right now lots of expeditions are packing gear and beginning to make their way to 29,035-foot (8,850-meter) Mount Everest for the spring climbing season. Besides all the usual guided groups, a couple interesting expeditions are heading to Everest.
The Eco Everest Expedition 2011 is this year's most worthy group. The expedition is led by Dawa Steven Sherpa and 51-year-old Apa Sherpa, who has climbed Mount Everest a record 20 times and lives in Draper, Utah. The 58-member international expedition, including eight Indians, seven Americans, three Brazilians, and single Spanish, Japanese, Mexican and Swiss climbers, aims to not only climb the world's highest peak but also to clean at least five tons of climbing garbage, waste, and refuse from the mountain.
"If my ascent would promote the cause and help protect the mountain," says Apa, "then I am always ready to climb." Ang Tshering Sherpa with Asian Trekking, which organized the expedition, adds, "The Himalayas are our gods and they should be kept clean."
Since New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay did the first ascent of Mount Everest in 1953, over 3,000 climbers have ascended the great peak. At Everest Base Camp and along the popular South Col Route, all these climbers have left piles of garbage, including oxygen bottles, tents, ropes, human waste, and even bodies, rather than bringing down their trash.
Besides cleaning garbage, the Eco Everest Expedition also will demonstrate to climbers that Mount Everest can be climbed in a clean, eco-friendly manner and climbers can successfully use alternative energy sources. The group will not use fossil fuel canisters, but instead will use solar cookers, solar energy for lighting, and they will drink water sterilized with SteriPENs rather than boiling it.
Prior to this year, the Eco Everest Expedition's three previous expeditions (2008, 2009, and 2010) brought down over 13 tons of garbage, 660 pounds of human waste, and four human bodies for proper burial.
Is there anything better than not only climbing but also taking care of our fragile climbing areas? I don't think so. Good for the Sherpas and the Eco Everest Expedition by setting an example for other climbers to follow on the world's highest mountain.
The other expedition includes Squash Falconer, a British climber and paraglider, who plans to become the first woman to paraglide off the summit of Mount Everest. I'll write more about her in a future post.
Photograph above: Apa Sherpa on the summit of Mount Everest for his 20th ascent. Photograph courtesy Eco Everest Expedition 2010.
Read more about Mount Everest:
Facts About Mount Everest
Mount Everest Timeline: 1848 to WWII
Apa Sherpa Reaches Everest Summit for Record 19th Time
Did Mallory and Irvine Summit in 1924?
High Speed Phone Service Comes to Mount Everest