American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Everest Ascent and Clean-up

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1995

Everest Ascent and Clean-up. In the spring of 1994, The Sagarmatha Environmental Expedition embarked on a unique mission on the world’s highest mountain with two goals. First, we wanted to reach the summit via the South Col mostly without the use of supplementary oxygen. Second, and equally important, we hoped to remove 2000 pounds of garbage from Base Camp and the higher camps. We showed that we could reach the top and also have a positive impact in reclaiming Everest’s environmental integrity. Scott Fischer and Rob Hess summited on May 9 without supplementary oxygen and I with it. Lopsang Sangbu Sherpa and Sonam Dindu Sherpa completed our summit team. I followed in my father’s footsteps, Dr. Barry Bishop, to become the first American father-son legacy. Steve Goryl summited on May 13 after waiting four nights at Camp IV for favorable weather. Steve Gipe chose not to make a summit attempt. By implementing an incentive program, the team removed an unprecedented 5000 pounds of garbage, including over 200 oxygen bottles. Base Camp Manager Chris Naumann coordinated the clean-up effort at Base Camp by segregating, weighing and cataloguing all the garbage collected. We paid staff Sherpas above and beyond their salaries to collect and transport garbage to Base Camp. Trash and oxygen bottles were brought down from higher camps only after loads had been ferried up the mountain. Two other teams joined in funding the incentive. For Base Camp garbage the Sherpas were paid 100 rupees for every 10 kilograms they collected. Higher on the mountain, climbing Sherpas were paid an incentive for carrying oxygen bottles from Camp IV to Camp II and from Camp II to Base Camp. We paid approximately $6.00 for each bottle brought from Camp IV to Base Camp. The garbage was segregated into three categories: burnables, tin and glass. All garbage was transported down-valley to Namche Bazar by yaks under the guidance of Bob McConnell. The burnables were incinerated in Namche by the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee. The tin and glass were flown to Kathmandu, where the glass was recycled and the tin disposed of in a landfill. All the oxygen bottles were shipped back to the United States. We demonstrated that climbing teams can successfully reach the summit and act in an environmentally sound manner. If Everest is to regain her environmental integrity, each and every expedition must be responsible for its own garbage and accept the responsibility for past climbers that lacked foresight. While we did not leave the South Col pristine, we did make a substantial start on bringing back what we now estimate is more than 2000 oxygen bottles from the South Col. Members of our expedition will return in the spring of 1995 to coordinate the buyback program in hope of establishing a trend and building momentum for the program. Interest, comments or donations should be addressed to the Sagarmatha Environmental Expedition, 2216 38th Place East, Seattle, Washington 98112, USA.

Brent Bishop

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