Bhrikuti Base Camp Rubbish

Publication Year: 2009.

Bhrikuti base camp rubbish. On arrival at base camp the British-Australian expedition was dismayed to find copious amounts of rubbish strewn around this pristine area. They collected a 25kg compressed-gas bottle and about nine porter-loads of trash, including 10 empty Coleman gas cartridges, empty tins, packaging, white sacks, and general debris, with food labels and magazines in Japanese. As they were traversing the Damodar Range, they were able to send only two porters back with rubbish. The rest they sacked up cached at base camp. It later became apparent that the trash could only have come from the 10-member Mountain Federation of Kana- gawa party from Japan, led by Tatsumine Makino, that made the first ascent of Chako (6,704m) in 2007 (AAJ 2008) and used the base camp.

On leaving base camp the Japanese, in accordance with the rules, burned burnables, buried biodegradable food scraps, and packed up the rest of the garbage, which they took down to Phu using porters hired for the purpose. They obtained a signed chit from the headman in Phu to confirm their garbage disposal and collected their environmental bond on return to Kathmadu. However, the Japanese had also sold a considerable amount of material to locals at Phu and left it at base camp, stacked and covered by a vinyl tarp, on the understanding it would be collected a few days later. It seems likely the Phu inhabitants, having paid for the goods, took what they wanted and dumped the rest.

After correspondence and exchange of photographs between me and a helpful Chako summiteer—Akio Omura—the Japanese confirmed that the garbage was indeed theirs. They were most apologetic. The result was that in autumn 2008 the Japanese contacted their agent in Nepal, Cosmo Treks, which sent two staff members to base camp. At Phu they recruited two locals to help. All the material around base camp was collected. The Cosmo staff tried to burn some of it, but locals forbade this for religious reasons, so they buried part and brought the rest back to Phu, later supplying photos to show their work had been completed. They were formally thanked for this action by the Australian-British team.

Leaving rubbish in the mountains to be collected at a later date rarely works, and even though the intentions of the Japanese were honorable, expedition leaders must remember that they are responsible for ensuring the area is left clean. The Japanese team learned a lesson for us all.

Lindsay Griffin, Mountain INFO