National Geographic : 2010 Oct
PHOTOS: CORY RICHARDS ENVIRONMENT Left on Everest For 60 years climbers have dumped gear and trash en route to the top of Mount Everest, often in the low-oxygen "death zone" above 26,000 feet, where shedding a few pounds can preserve precious energy. In recent years melting ice has begun to reveal the scope of the high-altitude imprint, exposing oxygen tanks and other long-frozen jetsam. Though tons of refuse are removed annually from base camps, last spring two Nepali groups, Extreme Everest Expedition and Eco Everest Expedition, targeted the peak's upper reaches and hauled down seven tons of waste, including debris from a 1973 helicopter crash. Nepalis are also concerned about corpses collecting on the mountain they consider holy. Since 1996 some 80 climbers have perished above base camp; most remain near the spot they died. In May two bodies, a Swiss and a Russian, were removed along with a pair of unidentified arms, one wearing a watch. Bringing back corpses was long considered logistically unfeasible, says Linda McMillan of the International Mountain- eering and Climbing Federation. But as traffic on Everest has risen, she notes, so too has the desire to clean it. ---Peter Gwin Melting ice exposed an unidentified arm (hand above) and a watch (top right). A Sherpa on Mount Everest sorts trash into plastics, metals, and biodegradables.