It’s difficult to comprehend that the outdoors experts who climb or attempt to climb Mount Everest are also responsible for trashing the place with litter and poop. According to a report by The Washington Post in 2015, sherpas remove around 26,000 pounds of human excrement from Everest each season. A BBC report drawn from a statement by the Tibetan authorities supports these findings, revealing that three clean-up operations last spring resulted in the collection of eight tons of waste, including mountaineering equipment left behind by climbers and a whole lot of crap.
The waste issue has now gone so far that China is enacting strict measures to prevent waste buildup on the mountain. First, the base camp on the Chinese side of Everest is now officially closed to visitors who don’t have the proper climbing permits (those are now limited to 300 per year). Second, according to an announcement by Ci Luo, director of the Chinese Mountaineering Association, reported by Fodor’s Travel, climbers will now be required to carry all of their own waste off the mountain — including their own feces.
Since the cold and elevation on the mountain prevent feces from degrading, it ends up getting deposited in the lakebed and contaminating the local drinking water.
Although the new rules might sound strict, China isn’t the first country to implement them. Climbers at El Capitan in Yosemite are required to store their feces in bags, which are then disposed of in pit toilets at the bottom. The National Park Service advises climbers to “go to the bathroom in a paper bag, and then put that bag in some sort of container to carry off the cliff.” On Antarctica, a similar prohibition is in place. To prevent garbage buildup on the frozen continent, the British Antarctic Survey requires research teams to collect waste, sort it by category, and then ship it either to the Falkland Islands or the UK for safe disposal.