Mountain Rubbish Exhibition, International Mountain Museum
At the far end of the Mountain Museum we found an exhibition that shocked, amazed and lifted the spirit all at once: Cleaning-up the “Mother Goddess of the Earth”
After twice failing to climb Mount Everest in 1997 and 1998, I finally reached the top on my third attempt on May 13,1999, as the 790th climber to stand on the summit. With that, I had fulfilled my goal of becoming the youngest person at that time to scale the highest peaks of the world’s seven continents.
Reaching the top of Everest, however, was not the end of my quest, but rather a new beginning. This was because while climbing on the routes on both the Chinese (Chomolungma) and Nepalese (Sagarmatha) sides of the mountain over the three seasons. I had been shocked to find huge amounts of discarded rubbish and human waste left behind by previous expeditions, particularly those from Asia.
I therefore decided to organize a series of expeditions to Mount Everest over the succeeding years that would attempt to clean up the mountain rather than climbing to the top. In the four years since then, I have brought four international teams to clear garbage from both sides of Mount Everest, on the Chomolungma route in China in 2000 and 2001, followed by the Sagarmatha route in Nepal in 2002 and this year. In total, we have collected more than seven tons of garbage, including tents, clothing, ropes, fuel cans, food packaging and oxygen cylinders. The current exhibition at the Hyatt Regency n Kathmandu includes examples of the garbage collected during this year’s expedition that cleared the route from Base Camp at 5,300 m to the Advanced Camp at 6,500 m and other camps up to the South Col at 8,000 m.
This summer there is great interest in Mount Everest, since 2003 marks the 50th anniversary of the first ascent by Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953. The allure of climbing Everest, however, has been with us ever since the first expeditions to the mountain in the early part of the twentieth century. In 1923, George Leigh Mallory famously said that he would climb Everest “because it was there.” In contrast, eighty years later at the beginning of the twenty-first century, my own recent expeditions to the mountain have taken place for a much more mundane reason: “because so much garbage is there!”
At this conclusion of the four Everest clean-up expeditions, I would like to stress once again the great influence of the actions of climbers have on the environment of the mountains. Over the 37-year period between the first ascent in 1953 and 1989 only two hundred and eighty-five climbers reached Mount Everest’s summit. In contrast, the thirteen years since then have seen almost eight hundred mountaineers reach the top, an average of more than sixty climbers each year. In this era of intensive use of the mountain, our actions and those of our successors will have a great influence in ensuring that Mount Everest, the “Mother Goddess of the Earth,” can be enjoyed by future generations in its original pristine condition.
Finally, I would like to express my sincerest thanks to the many people and organizations who have given such generous support to ensure the safe and successful completion of the four Noguchi/Asia Cleanup Expeditions.
I am particularly grateful to all the expedition team members, without whom nothing would have been possible. Ken Noguchi. May 26, 2003
What a fantastic thing to have done for Sagarmatha, but, it does beg the question – How much rubbish is on on the other famously climbed peaks not only in the Himalayas but throughout the world ??? What are we doing to our planet. We looked at each of the following pictures and read the information below them (a few didn’t have labels but it’s clear in meaning) with heavy hearts, if this is what we can see what do the ocean floors look like.
Ken Noguchi (center) digging out tents and other items left behind by previous expeditions from the frozen snow at Camp III at 7900 m on the Chomolungma route. (2000 Expedition).
Bear stands beside an ice axe made from different garbage collected by the mountain cleaning expedition team – there were actually beer labels in the mix....... Sorting out the garbage and putting it in bags (2000 Expedition).
The mountain of garbage weighing 1.5 tons collected at the Chomolungma Base Camp (2000 expedition).
The oxygen cylinders at Base Camp (5,200 m ) included some dating back from the 1960s (2000 Expedition)..
Poor weather that year made garbage collection difficult. Much of the garbage was from Asian expeditions, including Japanese ones. Photograph taken at Advance Base Camp at 6,600 m. (2001 Expedition). A stack of cylinders.
The 1.6 tons of garbage just before taking it down from the Base Camp at 5,300 m. (2001 Expedition).
All members of the 2001 Noguchi / Asia Chomolungma Clean Up Expedition (International Party) gather together at Base Camp to celebrate the completion of the expedition.
Empty oxygen cylinders taken away from Mt. Everest and Lhotse by Noguchi / Asia Clean Up Expedition 2000 to 2003.
Empty cooking gas cartridges (garbage) taken away from Mt. Everest and Lhotse by Noguchi / Asia Clean Up Expedition 2000 to 2003.
A helicopter was used to transport the collected garbage from Tangpoche to Kathmandu. (2002 Expedition).
Digging out tents from the snow at 7,300 m to the South Col of the Sagarmatha route. At this height, it is an effort just to breathe. (2002 expedition).
Ken Noguchi (far left) and Sherpas collecting garbage at Camp II at 6,500 m on the Sagarmatha route on May 1, 2003. (2003 expedition).
Broken and torn tents, ropes and broken ladders taken away from Mt. Everest and Lhotse by Noguchi / Asia Clean Up Expedition 2000 to 2003.
Members of the 2003 Naguchi / Asia Sagarmatha Clean Up Expedition.
Discovery of the body of a Sherpa close to Camp II who was killed in an accident while working with a Japanese expedition. (2003 expedition).
Such an incredibly sad sight.
An amazing story to finish with:
Ken Noguchi and My Oxygen Cylinder from Mount Everest
There is an old oxygen cylinder in the reception of my office that was found and brought back from 8300 m on the Chines side of Mount Everest (Chomolungma) by Ken Noguchi. One day Ken called to ask if he could meet with me, and I agreed without knowing the purpose. At the meeting, Ken showed me this cylinder and said, “This was left behind on Mt. Everest by your expedition!” I could read the date of production, July 1987, printed on its French body.
In the Spring of 1988, Japan, China and Nepal planned a joint expedition to climb Mount Everest simultaneously from both the Chines and Nepalese sides, and it was intended to fly a carp-shaped streamer from the summit on May 5 to celebrate the Japanese tradition of Children’s Day. In the end, our expedition was successful in scaling Mt. Everest and this cylinder is surely one that our expedition left behind on the Chinese side at that time. Honestly, I was surprised and ashamed that the cylinder had been left there.
Now it is common sense to avoid polluting nature, though this behavior was not as well established in the 1980’s. I came out in a cold sweat when Ken showed me this evidence, and I am sure anyone would feel the same way if they had been in my position. I decided to display the cylinder in my reception room lest I forget.
Following his successful ascent of Mount Everest in 1999, Ken returned to the mountain in each of the following four years including the current one with expeditions to clean up the climbing routes, something that no-one else in the world had done. Over this period, his expeditions have collected more than seven tons of garbage from the mountain.
In the future, I hope that all mountaineers aiming to climb Mount Everest and the other peaks in the Himalayas will continue to follow Ken Noguchi’s example in preserving the natural environment.
ALL IN ALL SO SAD BUT AT LEAST SOMEONE HAS PASSION TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT
QUITE HEART WRENCHING