New Everest Rule: You Can't Leave Your Poop Here

Climbers are leaving mountains of excrement behind, causing Everest to 'stink'
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 18, 2024 9:01 AM CST
New Everest Rule: You Can't Leave Your Poop Here
Tents are set up for climbers on the Khumbu Glacier, with Mount Khumbutse, center, and Khumbu Icefall, right, seen in background, at Everest Base Camp in Nepal.   (AP Photo/Tashi Sherpa, File)

Scaling the world's highest summit is an amazing feat that entails plenty of logistics—and now, what climbers do with their poop will be one of them. A new rule requiring people to carry out their waste after ascending Mount Everest was recently enacted by the Pasang Lhamu rural municipality, the BBC reports, because quite frankly, the "mountains have begun to stink," says Mingma Sherpa, chairman of Pasang Lhamu, which oversees a large part of the Nepali side of Everest. He added that officials have received "complaints that human stools are visible on rocks and some climbers are falling sick."

Extreme temperatures, especially near the topmost parts of the mountain, don't allow waste to fully decompose. Outside has an interesting rundown on what happens toilet-wise at each of the five camps climbers stop at on their way to the top, a trek that can take weeks. Base Camp, where climbers acclimate to the high altitude, is most organized, but as climbers go higher to the four other camps, they either drop waste in ravines, bury it, or when ice gets too hard, just leave it out in the open. Guide Stephan Keck describes South Col, Camp IV at 26,085 feet, as an "open toilet." "There is hardly any ice and snow, so you will see human stools all around," he tells the BBC.

A Nepali environmental group estimates there are about 6,600 pounds of excrement on Everest, with half of it at South Col. Under the new rule, climbers must purchase chemically filled bags at Base Camp that solidify waste and render it mostly odorless. After their descent, they must check in these "wag bags." Outside spoke to guides about how this change will affect their treks. For Austrian guide Lukas Furtenbach, who already requires his climbers to bring back waste in bags, the move is "long overdue." Others are making plans for the change, and for larger group tours, the logistics will be trickier. One outfitter is considering helicoptering drums of waste out, but if that doesn't pan out, hiring more staff to help carry the load. (More Mount Everest stories.)

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