AAC Publications - http://publications.americanalpineclub.org

Asia, Nepal, First Sagarmatha Preservation Expedition

First Sagarmatha Preservation Expedition. The First Sagarmatha Preservation Expedition, a unique environmental project to remove the debris of previous mountaineering attempts on Everest, finished the second phase of its operation during the autumn climbing season of 1984. Nepal Mountaineering Police and Sherpa climbers joined forces with American volunteers to clean up after the more than 70 expeditions that had gone before them during the past 32 years. The project was conceived by Inspector Yogendra Thapa of the Nepal Police and Pemba Tsering Sherpa of Journeys International, a trekking agency in Kathmandu. They wanted to reverse the growing reputation of Everest as being the garbage pit of the Himalaya. The project was scheduled in two phases, a spring campaign to clean up the Everest Base Camp area and an autumn campaign to clean up the Icefall and upper camp sites up to the South Col. Funding was provided for the spring phase by the Nepal Department of Tourism and for the autumn phase by the Earth Preservation Fund and private American donations. During the spring campaign in May 1984, 1200 loads of rubbish were removed from the upper part of the Khumbu Valley and the Base Camp site (one load approximates the size of a large household aluminum trash can). Virtually all of the trash came from foreign trekking and climbing groups and consisted of paper food wrappers, tin cans, plastic food containers, liquor bottles, empty film canisters, broken tent stakes, discarded clothing, and other assorted pieces of camping and climbing equipment. The autumn campaign began in August when an advance team from the Police arrived at Base Camp and forged a route through the Khumbu Icefall. The route which was also used by the Dutch, New Zealand, and Czechoslovakian expeditions was maintained by the Police with equipment supplied by those groups. The main team of climber-cleaners arrived at Base Camp in September and began the dangerous task of retrieving debris from the high wind-swept slopes and carrying it down through the Icefall. After cleaning the lower part of the Icefall, the Police team went up to Camp I just above the Icefall and worked its way up the Western Cwm towards the upper camp sites retrieving material from as high as Camp IV at the South Col. Everything collected was carried back by hand to Base Camp. From there Sherpa porters and yaks moved the debris to lower elevations where it was buried at Gorak Shep, a small summer yak herder village off the edge of the glacier. The more significant material such as aluminum ladders and oxygen cylinders was sent to Namche Bazar where it is to be housed in a small museum to be built at Sagarmatha (Everest) Park Headquarters. The autumn campaign collected over 600 loads, 150 loads coming from the Base Camp area and the rest from the Icefall and the upper camps. Unfortunately, the Police expedition ended in tragedy. Expedition Leader Yogendra Thapa and Ang Dorje Sherpa were killed as the result of a fall from the South Summit while searching for the body of Hannelore Schmatz, a German woman who perished while descending from a successful summit bid in October 1979.

Richard A. Salisbury