Photo Source: Flickr
Mountain climbing is a relatively popular activity. Some do it for exercise, for recreation, or to get connected to nature. One of the bucket-list destinations for mountaineers is Mount Everest. Located in Nepal, it is the tallest mountain in the world above sea level, towering at over 29,000 feet (Trip Savvy). Each year, hundreds of people come from all over the world to try their hand at ascending this natural wonder. However, with all the foot traffic, Mount Everest’s natural beauty is beginning to deteriorate, and the overcrowding has begun to affect the safety of other people trying to reach the summit.
Ever since the first modern record of someone reaching the peak of Everest in 1953, Mount Everest has been a destination mountain to climb for adventurers (Trip Savvy). About 1,000 people climb Everest each year (National Geographic). While Mount Everest is technically shared between Tibet and Nepal, the easiest side to climb up would be from the Nepalese side, and often during peak seasons the original base camp looks more like a tent city due to the volume of people. It’s also not cheap to make the ascent. Traveling aside, tourists have to pay the Nepalese government to get a permit to climb the mountain, pay a royalty for making the ascent, and they have to pay a sherpa or a mountain climbing travel agency to guide them up the mountain safely (this doesn’t even account for the amount of money one would have to pay for lodging, food, supplies, and anything extra that is not covered by the agency). The average ascent ends up costing about $70,000 per person (which can be less depending on whether you go off-season or pay a local mountain company to guide you to the summit).
While there are a total of 17 official routes to get up to Mount Everest’s summit, the mountain has been plagued with pollution and deterioration. The glaciers on the mountain has been melting, making the climb more dangerous (Time). The fact that more people have been wanting to get onto the mountain than ever has made overcrowding and waste disposal a large problem (United Nations University). The routes leading up to the summit are littered with waste such as oxygen tanks and food containers. There are also no dedicated spots to relieve yourself, so often travelers will do so near the route. The lines up to the summit are also overcrowded. Because of the high demand, the walk up to the summit is exceedingly slow, which can waste precious time and oxygen (because of the high altitudes, adventurers need oxygen tanks to be able to breathe well). Because of the overcrowding and already hostile conditions of the mountain, death is a possibility when trying to ascend the mountain. This year alone, 11 people have died trying to reach the summit, compared to 10 deaths in an entire year in 2012. The routes’ views also have corpses that could not be safely removed from the mountain, some of which have been there for decades.
At first, one may immediately want to put a ban on all travel to Mount Everest due to the pollution and danger, but it’s not that simple. First of all, Nepal relies on the influx of tourist money from wanting to climb Mount Everest (How Stuff Works). Money from the tourism alone makes up at least 4% of Nepal’s gross domestic product (in the United States, it's 2.7%), and plenty of civilians rely on tourism to get by, so immediately banning it outright would put a lot of economic strain on both the people and the government. The Nepalese government has toyed with putting a limit on the amount of permits for climbing the summit, but they have not gone along with it yet (CNBC).
This danger and pollution problem is not new; researchers have been complaining for awhile, even as far back as 2012 and 2013, about the pollution and waste problems plaguing the mountain. It has recently come back into popular consciousness due to the volume of deaths already this year. However, the solution to the problem is much more complex than making a simple ban on climbing Everest and cleaning the mountain up. First of all, plenty of people still attempt to ascend the mountain without a permit. National Geographic estimated that at least 250 people summited the mountain without registering with the Nepalese government, signifying that some people will try to ascend the mountain with or without the government’s blessing. Also, if one were to outright ban the travel, the government and people would have to figure out how to go without the influx of tourism money that they have come to rely on, though the country would be in deep trouble if no one decides to climb Everest once the pollution gets to a point of no return. Between the climbing companies and the Nepalese government, some action should be taken to protect Mount Everest for both the sake of nature preservation and the Nepalese economy, but they need to sincerely think over what course of action is best for the environment and the people.