Progress on Everest and Removing the Dead

Apr 21, 2010
Outside Magazine

Everest_2008_419-1 Climbers are making great progress with their acclimatizationrotations on both sides of Everest. The Sherpas are now starting to fixthe ropes to camp 3 high on the Lhotse Face - a great sign. On thenorth, Adventure Peaks is looking to move to the North Col

For some teams, the next climb through the Icefall will result inthe almost mandatory night at camp 3. This is quite early at thispoint. As always, the weather will have the last say. It seems tohappen like this every season, great weather through late April wheneveryone gets excited about an early summit, then the snows start andthe mountain is shut down in early May. Again, like clockwork, it opensback up in mid May and we see the stream of summits. It will beinteresting to see how it plays out this year.

The Asian Trekking Eco Everest team is back at trash collectionagain this year. And it looks like it is off to a good start. I want toclarify, that a lot of the trash they mention is from many years ago.Today, all teams put up a trash deposit of several thousand dollars. Ifthey do not take down all their trash, their deposit is forfeited.Again, all the best commercial expeditions and responsible privateparties do everything possible to keep Everest clean. ApaSherpa's comments on this year:

The Eco Everest Expedition is holding its annual weighand pay program at Everest Base Camp in an effort to keep the tallestmountain in the world free from trash. At the end of each day, everyonebrings in all the trash they could find and weigh it. On the spot theyget paid 100 rupees per kilogram (That’s about a $1.40 for every 2.2pounds for you Yankees).

Traditionally it’s been a big hit with the Sherpas, but this yeareven the foreign climbers are getting involved. Arjun, a member of ourexpedition who is poised at 16 years old to be the youngest Indian toclimb Mount Everest, turned in 5 kilos yesterday and earned enoughmoney to get his laundry done. The total haul from yesterday was 218kilograms. The goal this year is to get 7,000 kilograms. It would be amassive clean-up effort where everybody wins.

In addition to just removing trash, anothereffort is to prevent the trash from being there in the first place,especially human waste. Denali climbers know about the Clean MountainCan (CMC). Rainer climbers get familiar with the "blue bag". All ofthese are systems to have climbers carry their solid waste down fromthe mountain.

On Everest there has never been such a system. So climbers have beentaking care of business for years by straddling over a crevasse andhoping for good aim. This year, several expeditions are encouraging theuse of blue bags as reported by Tim Rippel of Peak Freaks:

As many of you know or may have guessed, we have beenpushing for climbers to stop pooping and dumping on the mountain forquite a few years now. Thanks to Internet and exposure, we are happy tosay that the teams have all agreed to follow our lead. Dawa Stevensfrom the Asian Trekking Eco Expedition clean-up did show up with poobags this year. But unfortunately for some they didn't get thebiodegradable part that we urged them to research. We are putting themin touch with our supplier of the biodegradable ones. They have to bethese!!!

The ones in the foil insulated bags and plastics with chemicals isnot environmentally acceptable. We are happy to see that everyoneagreed. I might add there were a few that seemed to grumble a bit, butby the end of the meeting they too agreed. There will be policing inthis regard, in an effort to put an end to brown snow. Pictures will betaken and teams will be shamed. FINALLY!!! this is the new way to climbin the Himalayas- happy :)

The Fins had a more colorful way of putting it:

Everybody agreed to bring down their solid leavings.Acting straight away, we got a bunch of shit packs from Mr. Dawa ofAsian Trekking. Awhile we thought how to realize this in practice anddecided that in these very warm temperatures the one and only option isto carry fresh shit down by the pack tied and hanging outside thebackpack. Quite amusing is also that we will stay at camp two 4-5 daysand when coming down we’ll look like Christmas trees full of hangingshit packs everywhere.

No matter how you describe it, this is a good change given thecrowds on the world's highest mountain. Unfortunately, there is no sucheffort on the north side.

IMG hosted a meeting of all the south expedition leaders anddiscussed fixing the route to the summit. It contains some interestingdetails for this year:

IMG hosted a meeting of the different teams on Everestyesterday. On the South Side of Everest, cooperation between teams hasbeen the norm since 1991. We have 7000m of rope ready to move up,including 4000m of 11mm, for fixing the route above. Double ropes (upand down) will be installed in all the key spots. Also, all the oldrope will get cleaned from the Yellow Band and Geneva Spur, with newbolts placed on the Geneva Spur (Yellow Band anchors were replacedlast year).

According to Tim Rippel's Peak Freaks site, Himex will lead theroute fixing from the South Col to the summit with assistance fromSherpas form other teams. This is similar to last year.

In an interesting twist, about Asian Trekking's Eco Everesteffort to clean the trash from Everest's south side above camp 3, butin a BBCarticle, it is now reported the Sherpa team will also try to bring downfive bodies. This is remarkable in that historically, the Sherpacommunity has stayed away from dealing with the dead on Everest.

There have been exceptions such as when Babu Chiri Sherpa died in acrevasse fall in 2001, his body was recovered. Also, last year whenLhapka Nuru Sherpa died in the Icefall, his body was also recovered inthe Fall season. Now the effort will extend to westerners. The BBCreports that seven time Everest climber Namgyal Sherpa is running theexpedition. There are expected to bring down American Scott Fischer,who died in 1996, and Swiss alpinist Gianni Goltz, who died in 2008.They will also look for Rob Hall's body.

"I have seen three dead bodies laying on the trail. Butwe know that there is another dead body also which we heard about along time ago," says Namgyal. The team plans to bring down the body ofSwiss climber Gianni Goltz to base camp, where they have been givenpermission by Goltz's family to cremate it. "We have a specialstretcher to bring the bodies down. We can put the dead body on astretcher and then drag it slowly to base camp," says Namgyal.

This is not without controversy. Many climbers and their familiesfeel if you die on a mountain you be left there. But the Sherpacommunity now feels Everest should not be a burial ground. This mayhave been sparked by the plan to spread Sir Edmund Hillary's ashes onthe summit. However both the Nepal government and local Lama'sinterceded and stopped the plan saying that Everest is holy and shouldnot be used for publicity.

So Everest 2010 continues. There have bee no serious delays or incidents thus far. the weather is good and the route looks solid. Climbers continue to get their bodies ready for the next push. So far, so good.

Climb On!


Arnette is a speaker, mountaineer and Alzheimer's Advocate. You can read more on his site

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