Few months ago, I had an occasion to listen to a member of the team from my home town Pune, who had scaled Mt. Everest on 16th March of this year (2012) along with one of his team-mate. The one hour talk turned out to be a thrilling experience for me, as climbing Mt. Everest still remains one of the most daunting and challenging task for any person.
During his talk, the guest speaker mentioned about one sore spot of the expedition. He talked about the heaps and heaps of litter and trash lying along the entire route to top of the mountain. This litter has been generated by generations of climbers, who have been trying to climb this greatest challenge for the mankind. Because of the extremely cold conditions, this litter remains intact as left by the climbers, and does not deteriorate or decompose at all. He mentioned about having seen even some dead bodies of the climbers and sherpas, who have died in previous expeditions. The situations has become so bad that the route to Mt. Everest has become a garbage dump at some places, where almost all climbers usually have their camps.
An art group, Da Mind Tree from Nepali capital Kathmandu, decided to do something about the garbage on the Mt. Everest and collected about 1.5 tons of garbage, which included empty oxygen bottles, gas canisters, food cans, torn tents, ropes, crampons, boots, plates, twisted aluminum ladders and torn plastic bags dumped by climbers over decades on the slopes of the world’s highest mountain. The trash was picked up from the mountain by Sherpa climbers in 2011 and earlier part of 2012. It was brought down to Kathmandu by porters and trains of long-haired animals known as yaks.
After collecting the garbage, fifteen Nepali artists closeted with it for a month. When they emerged out, they had transformed the Mt. Everest garbage into art and had created 75 sculptures, including one of a yak and another of wind chimes. The art group is led by Mr. Kripa Rana Shahi. He says that the sculpting, and a recent exhibition of the sculptures in the Nepali capital of Kathmandu were all aimed at spreading awareness about keeping Mount Everest trash or garbage free. He says rightly that “Everest is our crown jewel in the world. We should not take it for granted. The amount of trash there is damaging our pride.”
The sculptures included a Tibetan mandala painting, which showed the location of Mount Everest in the universe, was made by sticking yellow, blue and white pieces of discarded beer, food cans and other metals on a round board. In an another sculpture, empty oxygen cylinders were mounted on a metal frame to make Buddhist prayer wheels.
Mt. Everest was first scaled by Sir Edmund Hillary from New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay of India in 1953. Since then, more than 4,000 people have climbed the 29,035 feet peak including the team from Pune. As I have mentioned above, the climbers report that the mountain slopes are littered with trash which remains buried under the snow during the winter and resurfaces again in the summer when the snow melts.
Government of Nepal takes a deposit of US$ 4000 from all climbing teams to ensure that the teams bring back all the garbage generated by them on the mountain. However, since physical verification is almost impossible, some amount of trash remains on the slopes.
The art pieces created have been kept on sale. Parts of the proceeds would go to artists and the balance to the Everest Summiteers’ Association (ESA), which sponsored the collection of garbage from the mountain.
During the lecture about Mt. Everest expedition from Pune, the young speaker had showed us some photographs of the trash collected on the mountain slopes, which were quite disgusting. This art creation is therefore a great initiative, and might lead to some reduction at least in the trash on the slopes of the highest mountain on planet earth.