Mount Everest clean-up effort reveals staggering problem plaguing world's highest mountain

11,000 kilos of waste, including four human corpses and one skeleton, was found by the Nepalese Army who scaled the world's highest mountain.

Three men hold plastic bags cleaning up with the high peak of Mount Everest behind them.
More than 11,000 kilos of waste was removed during a clean-up of Mount Everest over the last several weeks. Source: 9News

More than 11,000 kilos of waste has been removed from Mount Everest, including four human corpses and one skeleton, during an annual clean-up which ended this week.

The high-altitude project was carried out by the Nepalese Army and involved a 55-day effort in sub-zero temperatures, with authorities heading into the mission to retrieve human remains from perished climbers attempting to summit the Earth's highest peak. Those collected have since been handed over to TU Teaching Hospital's forensic lab in Nepal.

It is estimated more than 50,000 kgs of waste covers Everest, which is often dubbed the world's highest garbage dump, sparking the annual clean-up effort since 2019.

Everest and two other nearby Himalayan peaks are thought to be littered with human waste and rubbish, prompting authorities to warn climbers to bring back their poo in an attempt to curb the ever-growing waste problem in the area. Overcrowding and trash have been two of the biggest problems plaguing Everest in recent years.

Last year, Aussie man Jason Kennison became “unresponsive” at the summit, before eventually passing away. In 2023, 12 climbers were confirmed to have died on Everest, with an additional five still officially unaccounted for.

Currently, the majority of those who try to climb the 8,849-meter (29,032-foot) Himalayan peak do so via Nepal.

More than 200 bodies are believed to be littered throughout Everest and nearby Himalayan peaks, with more than 320 climbers losing their lives during their attempt to ascend the mountain throughout the years since 1922, based on records kept by The Himalayan Database.

Aussie mountaineer Luke Rollnik points to Mount Everest peak (left) and a queue of climbers pass a frozen dead body on the side of the mountain (right).
Aussie mountaineer Luke Rollnik recalled the grim reality of climbing Mount Everest after seeing a frozen dead body during his ascend. Source: Instagram

One Aussie climber among the exclusive group of people to have reached the top previously recalled to Yahoo News that "mortality is very real and in your face". He posted footage online of a queue of eager mountaineers climbing up the peak while a dead body frozen on the ground was just an arm's reach away from them.

"Passing that body was when I was like, 'How much do I want this?' You also look straight down into the abyss when passing the body," Luke Rollnik told Yahoo News. He said he passed three dead bodies during his exhibition last year, with the season now the deadliest on record.

Avalanches and falls have taken the most lives on Everest, with exhaustion and exposure to the elements also frequently listed as climbers' causes of death.

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