ESSAY: Taking Out The Trash With The Treasure Tap Richards - Basecamp Wed, April 04, 2001 4:50AM
This past week I found myself staggering my way back up the N. Col, my thoughts consumed by all the Everest memorabilia. I'm talking about the memorabilia piled up in heaps of trash, near and around the Advanced Base Camp. That morning, Andy and I climbed out of ABC (21,000ft.) at a painfully slow pace. When walking that slow, at least you don't have to focus on where each foot is about to land. We took this moment of deliberation to investigate a bit of what had occurred in the past.
Weather it was our lack of motivation to climb up the N. Col or our curiosity, we found ourselves digging through the refuse heaps of Everest ABC. Contrary to public misunderstanding, the Base Camp on the North side of Everest is as clean as any Wilderness campsite in the US. The advent of driving a jeep to the Base Camp enables all trash to be hauled away. Due to it's remote location, the situation at Advanced Base Camp is very different, as it can only be reached by foot or yak (no you don't get to ride the yaks).
The higher one climbs, the higher percentage of abandoned camps and garbage. As our team members have recently discovered, these sites encompass the "reading between the lines" of numerous expeditions. Ever since the beginning of Everest climbing, teams have turned their backs to the mountain, leaving piles of rubbish behind.
Many of the high altitude dumps are a product of ill-fated or thwarted climbs. Some expeditions are inhibited from recovering gear from their high camps, due to harsh weather and late season storms. Other climbers are faced with the predicament where they have only the strength to get themselves off the mountain.
The problem is much greater than the circumstances of misfortune and bad luck. The diverse personalities and the climbing philosophies associated with their cultural mores are the stem of the problem. That's also what makes these trash heaps so interesting it's not the discovery that some expedition had too much oatmeal and obviously grew very sick of it by the end of the expedition. When it comes to dealing with waste, many climbers are slack and often overlook any planning. Each expedition needs to take upon themselves the planning for the removal of garbage. We're doing our part by removing what we find as treasure, AND that what we don't...