As Everest climbing season gets started this week, Nepal is enforcing a rule for scaling the world's tallest mountain that might sound like it came from your mother: Pick up after yourself.
While it's technically not a new rule, it has rarely if ever been enforced.
Some 4,000 people have scaled Mount Everest since the 29,035-foot-high Himalayan peak was first summited in 1953 by New Zealand climber Edmund Hillary and a Nepalese Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay. Until now, most climbers, concerned with getting up and back down alive, have discarded mountains of litter — everything from food wrappers to shredded tents — in their tracks.
No more. Authorities in Nepal, which administers the mountain's south approaches, estimate that the average climber discards about 18 pounds of trash (minus empty oxygen bottles) along their route. And that's just what they expect them to return at base camp — or else forfeit a hefty $4,000 deposit.
"We are not asking climbers to search and pick up trash left by someone else," Maddhu Sudan Burlakoti, head of the mountaineering department at the Tourism Ministry, tells The Associated Press. "We just want them to bring back what they took up."
Since the requirement is for climbers to return with the trash they brought up (or its equivalent weight), it won't do much about the garbage heaps already up there — but at least it might keep the situation from getting worse.
The AP says:
"The goal is to make sure no new trash will be left on Everest, which has earned the nickname 'the world's highest garbage dump' because of the tons of crumpled food wrappers, shredded tents and spent oxygen cylinders littering the mountain."
"The government has long asked climbers to clear their trash, but there was no mechanism to check what people brought down. There also was little or no enforcement despite threats [to keep the deposit] — which were rarely carried out."
Under the rule, "once [climbers] submit the rubbish to officials of the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee on their return to the Everest base camp, they will get a receipt. They will need to submit that to us so that they can reclaim their deposits," Madhusudan Burlakoti told BBC Nepali's Surendra Phuyal in Kathmandu.
Sagarmatha is the Nepali name for Everest, which they consider a sacred mountain.
Last week, Nepal, which garners significant revenue from climbing fees and services provided to Everest expeditions, announced that authorities plan to station security guards at the base of Everest following a high-altitude brawl last April between European climbers and their Sherpa guides. CNN says that now:
"Up to nine officers from the police and army will be sent to the mountain to try to resolve conflicts on the spot rather than having to appeal to authorities in Kathmandu.
"'The police will be the state's representative at the mountain to verify incidents that have to be reported to the authorities,' said Dipendra Poudel, a mountaineering official.
" 'It's [part of] our effort to make mountaineering respectable.' "
In 2010, a team of Sherpas climbed the mountain with the sole purpose of trying to remove the trash there.