How can Mount Everest be saved from environmental degradation

  • This photo feature highlights the environment degradation in the Mount Everest region, what can be done to reduce it and how climbing the Everest, with the help of Sherpas, is more a question of glory today.


Mount Everest – the very word sounds so daunting! Today, the word Everest is synonymous with ambition, heroism, pride, dignity and off late - arrogance, if I may use that word. My foray into the realms of the “Everest” has been fuelled to a large extent by the meteoric presence of my childhood buddy Ang Tshering Lama (aka Dipak) as I call him even today.


Three times Everest summiter and each one more dramatic, daring and one-of-a-kind; Ang Tshering Lama is a rare breed. One has to use a telescope to find another one of his class and I reckon, he is amongst the last breed of “Classical Climbers/Mountaineers” that Planet Earth has in its embryo.

He epitomises the quintessential “Sherpa Pride” and from one thousand kilometers away in the Indian city of Kolkata I have been keenly following not just his stupendous mountaineering exploits but also his gorgeous evolution as the torch bearer of the Sherpa community - much like the red molten ball rising above the majestic Mount Everest in the morning.

 Team of trekkers enroute to the Base Camp

Ang’s passion to safeguard and preserve the fast vanishing Sherpa culture from the Himalayas is legendary – be it his rescue missions during the 2015 Nepal  Earthquake, rebuilding remote Nepalese villages or guiding an all-widow team to the top of the world.  

Ang has contributed immensely through his philanthropic bent of mind.

Two Everest mountaineers trek onwards to the Base Camp. Wayside amenities enroute to Everest Base Camp.

Out here at the Everest Base Camp perched on the Khumbu Glacier at an altitude of 5600 metres with the temperature hovering around -7, I got the Master Mountaineer to bare his heart out on the state of affairs at Mount Everest. Inside a weather proof tent, Ang revealed – 


“Climbing Mount Everest  is no longer a noble quest. 90% of Everest climbers go to the top with selfish intentions and wrap themselves up in a blaze of glory. However, the fact of the matter is that almost all the hard work – fixing ropes, laying ladders, guiding, cooking food and even making crucial decisions on rarefied heights are all done by the native Sherpas”. 

Ang finds this entire enterprise surrounding Mount Everest very hilarious. He is of the opinion that without “Bottled Oxygen” , which all Everest climbers rely upon these days, not even one would make it to the top.

Add to it, the “Crass Commercialization” of MountEverest which is so very palpable at Everest Base Camp – high-end tents with luxury beds, uninterrupted power supply, strong Wi-Fi etc....have all made entry into this rarefied realm of the Himalayas. Costs could range anywhere between $25,000 to $ 100,000. Unbelievable!

Ang Tshering Lama acclimatizes at the Base Camp. Ang Tshering Lama on top of the summit.

As the conversation drags along, I show Ang an exclusive BBC coverage on Mount Everest where it reports-“It's being described as the 'world's highest rubbish dump'. That's because Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, has a problem with climbers leaving their waste on the slopes - both rubbish and poo.

The mountain is home to three tonnes of climbers' rubbish, left by adventurers visiting the mountain. The waste includes tents and equipment left behind, as well as human waste from mountaineers who need to go to the loo while they're up there.

Ang Tshering Lama with his Maldivian co - climber.

Ang’s curt reply to the issue of garbage dumped on Everest would make any environmentalist sit up and take notice. And why not! 

His wisdom comes from two decades of mountaineering around the world and the fact that he is a wizened Sherpa himself! According to Ang – “My take on the matter is very simple – A state of the art Solid Waste Management System should be put in place at the earliest. I myself have been involved big time in several Everest Clean-Up campaigns, which gave me mental satisfaction, alright; but being practical, these sporadic attempts do not count for much.

Ang further opines that environmental degradation isn’t just confined to Mount Everest; the Sagarmatha National Park area has suffered too. It used to be one of Nepal’s most pristine natural zones but has witnessed a manifold increase in terms of visitor traffic, particularly trekkers and the need of the hour for the mandarins of Nepal Tourism is to re-set and fix a permissible limit in terms of number of tourists allowed to visit, keeping in mind the “Carrying Capacity” of the region.

Ang on top of Everest.

As we converse inside our Weather-proof tent, one of the staff members from Angs Himalayan Adventure, an adventure tourist company that Ang set up, offered us piping hot Caccupinho Coffee and the first couple of sips tasted like the Holy Grail in such freezing temperatures!

As our talks centerd around Buddhism and the harmonious manner in which neighbouring Bhutan has been preserving and protecting the only carbon-negative country in the world is a lesson for today’s hi-tech scientific community. 

According to Ang –“Basically it is a question of lifestyle. How nature friendly you are?

Bhutan’s commitment to a more sustainable world originates from its intrinsic connect with Vajrayana Buddhism, which states that peace is of paramount importance. No activity in Bhutan is ever performed or driven by purely commercial instincts. Even in mega business ventures like hospitality, the underlying essence is on harmonious integration or fusion of contemporary architecture with ancient Bhutanese Wood and Stone architecture.”


Ang, who himself is a die-hard Buddhist is all praise for  Bhutan which has for a long time been following the policy of “Isolationism” in its attempts to safeguard traditional Bhutanese culture.

On a meditative note, the Master mountaineer says-“As a Sherpa, it fills my heart with joy when I see a small Himalayan kingdom putting Happiness ahead of Capitalism. This not only requires guts to implement but also speaks volumes about the moral backbone of the Bhutanese society. Tomorrow if Bhutan were to open up its tourism sector to globalization, the country for sure would be earning Megabucks from day one.” Read  Seven days of bliss in Bhutan

Ang in one of his lighter moods at the Base Camp.

I for one feel that the mandarins of Nepal Tourism should take lessons from neighbouring Bhutan by putting government’s regulations in place. What further impresses me the most about Bhutan is that the cultures of begging and touting that predominantly germinate and grow around popular tourist hubs has no place in the Himalayan kingdom. How many countries on Planet Earth can you imagine where the government sets up a stringent Minimum Spending Requirements for visitors? 

On an optimistic note, let us all hope that the corpses on top will be safely removed, proper conservation practices will be in place and all the stake holders – climbers, adventure tour operators as well as the local Sherpa community will reorganize, redefine and demystify the Mount Everest Climb.

As part of the Sustainable Tourism agenda, it is imperative to clean up the mess so that one of the world’s greatest natural wonders can be restored to its pristine glory. 


For many years, mountaineers worldwide have been clamouring that Government of Nepal pass a law making it mandatory for expeditions to bring down the bodies of dead climbers. The Everest experience also has lessons with regard to mankind’s forays into virgin territories like the Antarctica and the unexplored realms of outer space, which are also getting cluttered with debris of our civilization. 


I quote below an observation of Sir Edmund Hillary, a few months prior to his passing away in 2008, on the sorry state of affairs on Mount Everest–

Those of us who climbed Everest in the early days were the lucky ones. We had to defeat the problems ourselves. When we stood on the summit we had only our good friends for company. These conditions can only be renewed by limiting the number of expeditions on the mountain at any one time. Governments must put safety ahead of financial profit. Only then will the challenge and joy of climbing Mount Everest return.


"A golden rule, which is being flouted, is one of gradual acclimatization. But with climbers not having much time at their disposal, they want to reach the summit in the shortest possible time. From a test of endurance, discipline and skill, the climb has been transformed into a battle of modern technology.


He further adds-“I can hardly imagine myself climbing Everest in the present scenario. I remember vividly the time spent on South Col and my climb to the summit on May 29, 1965.


It was 9 A.M. when I stood on the summit. I took a long wheeling look from the highest point on earth. There was Makalu, Lhotse, Nuptse and Kanchenjunga looming large on the horizon and many other peaks far below us. I gazed north towards the Tibetan plateau and south towards the plains of India. The view was unforgettable. Of all the emotions, which surged through me, the most dominant one was of humility and sadness. Having climbed the highest peak hereafter there would be nothing higher to climb since all roads would necessarily lead downwards.

I am compelled to quote renowned mountain afficianado Viesturss, who has time and again cited -   In recent years, Everest has been degraded by its sheer popularity. Let’s not degrade it further.


For those of you looking to build your own adventure, Angs Himmalayan Adventure specializes in catering and curating trips to the Himalayas for private groups. AHA provides a high crew/client ratio ensuring personal attention and safety during your adventure. For further information and reservations, please contact Ang Tshering Lama


All pictures are courtesy Ang Tshering Lama.


Editor Notes – Though Nepal is another country, we have included it in section India Travel and Yatras. No offence meant to fellow Nepalis. Over time, the content has included trips to Indic nations in the Sub-continent.

Album of Indian Air Force Mount Everest Expedition  


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