George Mallory was a British adventurer who took part in the first three British expeditions to climb Mt. Everest. When asked why he wanted to reach the summit of the highest peak on the planet, he famously quipped “Because it’s there.”
Mallory and his climbing partner Andrew Irvine disappeared about 800 vertical feet from the summit in 1924. His body was discovered 75 years later, in May of 1999. It is unknown if he made the summit before he died.
The tourism department of Nepal, the nation where Mt. Everest is located, could very well adopt Mallory’s catchphrase and use it with their latest effort: removing tons of trash from the highest place on earth.
Clean up efforts began last month to remove a total of 11 tons of garbage from Everest, including corpses.
USA Today reported a crew has already brought down more than three tons of trash left behind by those attempting to climb the world’s highest mountain.
Dandu Raj Ghimire, Nepal’s tourism director, said there are also plans to recover bodies of climbers who died during the journey to the top. Four bodies have already been found at the base camp,
About 500 foreign climbers and 1,000 support staff are expected to make the climb to the higher camps on Everest this year.
“Our goal is to extract as much waste as possible from Everest so as to restore glory to the mountain. Everest is not just the crown of the world, but our pride,” Ghimire told reporters.
Approximately 30 tons of trash still remain on the mountain. Tika Ram Gurung, secretary of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, said, “Everything on Everest, other than rock and snow, will be brought back,” according to the Himalayan Times.
It’s pretty easy to understand why people have left tons of trash on the mountain. Climbing to the highest spot on the globe is not an easy task. As you climb higher and higher, just hauling your body in the thinning atmosphere is a Herculean task, let alone carrying any unnecessary items.
But I can’t help but wonder if the trash could have been picked up on the way back down by the same people who deposited it on the way up.
During my research for this column, I couldn’t find out whether Mallory’s body was recovered or simply left where he surrendered to the mountain. I can understand leaving him where he was found, especially after 75 years. News accounts reported that the corpse was still clothed and nametags used to identify Mallory were found inside several articles of clothing.
It is perhaps a testament to changing times and views on the environment that nearly a century after Mallory’s death, people are assailing Everest to remove garbage. Kudos to the government of Nepal for organizing the event.
Environmentalists like to talk about the mythical kingdom of “Away” the place where we throw our unwanted items. There is, of course, no such place. This news story about 40 tons of trash on the highest place on the planet drove that home to me.
Removing that trash “because it’s there” is a noble and worthy cause.
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