March 3, 2014
The Government of Nepal has announced what amounts to a new trash tax on anyone who climbs Mount Everest.
The new rules, which begin in April with the start of the climbing season, require all mountaineers and support staff who climb above Everest base camp to bring back 17 pounds of trash that is already on the mountain or pay a stiff fine.
Government rules already require climbers to bring back their own trash or risk losing the $4,000 deposit that they pay before being granted passage upward. To get that money back, climbers have to present their own trash when they return down the mountain. A similar arrangement will presumably accompany the new rules.
The 17-pound requirement is to help reduce the amount of rubbish left behind by the more than 4,000 people have climbed to the top since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay first accomplished the feat in 1953. Hundreds have died in the attempt. A consequence of all those treks up and down the mountain has been a growing amount of litter left behind, including oxygen cylinders, all manner of climbing equipment, and the bodies of climbers who have died on the way up or down.
Groups of Nepalese people routinely climb to varying heights just to remove such rubbish from the mountainside. Now, the government wants climbers to help in the cleanup efforts.
The mountain itself, the highest in the world, rises more than 29,000 feet toward the sky. Base camp is 17,388 feet up.
The mountain is known by many names. The Tibetan name is Chomolungma, meaning "Mother of the Universe." The Nepali name translated into English is "Head of the Sky." The English name, Everest, came from Andrew Waugh, the British surveyor-general of India who encountered the mountain in 1865 and named it after the former surveyor-general George Everest.