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Human Feces Threaten Mount Everest

Mar 03, 2015 01:10 PM EST
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In a bizarre turn of events, human feces of all things is threatening Mount Everest, causing pollution and possibly spreading disease on the world's highest peak, officials announced Tuesday.

More than 700 climbers and guides frequent Everest's dangerous slopes each climbing season. Understandably so, they have to relieve themselves sometimes. However, this mountain of poo and urine (pun intended) has long been overlooked, and is just now being recognized as a serious health hazard. Nepal's government is calling for better waste disposal in order to keep the famous mountainside pristine.

"Climbers usually dig holes in the snow for their toilet use and leave the human waste there," Ang Tshering, the chief of Nepal's mountaineering association, told The Associated Press (AP).

"It is a health hazard and the issue needs to be addressed," added Dawa Steven Sherpa, who has been leading Everest cleanup expeditions since 2008.

Hundreds of foreign climbers attempt to scale Mount Everest during Nepal's mountaineering season, which began this week and runs through May. They set up at four camps, located between the base camp at 5,300 meters (17,380 feet) and the 8,850-meter-high (29,035-foot-high) summit. And despite the heavy foot traffic, toilets are not among the camps' basic equipment and supplies.

So for the last four years, human waste has literally been piling up around these four camps.

Some climbers, aware of this inconvenience, will carry disposable travel toilet bags with them to use as they ascend higher up the mountain, but this does not seem to be enough.

Nepal's government has yet to come up with a plan to tackle the issue of human waste, according to Puspa Raj Katuwal, the head of the government's Mountaineering Department. However, starting this season officials will do a better job of monitoring garbage on the mountain.

New rules will require each climber to bring down to the base camp 8 kilograms (18 pounds) of trash - the amount the government estimates a climber discards along the route. If they fail to comply, climbing teams must leave a nonrefundable $4,000 deposit.

Hopefully, these measures will prevent further pollution and cease all threats of spreading disease across the mountainside, keeping this iconic site in pristine condition.

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, Mount Everest lies on the crest of the Great Himalayas of southern Asia, located on the border between Nepal and Tibet. Reaching an elevation of 8,850 meters (29,035 feet), it is the highest mountain in the world.

Even so, more than 4,00 climbers have scaled its slopes since 1953, when New Zealand climber Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay were the first to successfully reach the top.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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