In A Nutshell
Despite being one of the most difficult places on earth to reach, Mount Everest is plagued by trash, leftover gear, and yes, even dead bodies. Many climbers have been lost, and Everest does not make reclaiming them an easy task.
The Whole Bushel
Ever since Mount Everest was first summitted by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953 (or was it George Mallory and Andrew Irvine in 1924?), mountain climbers and adventure enthusiasts from all walks of life have dreamed of reaching the highest peak on Earth. As the costs of expeditions have come down over the years and technology has improved, a huge wave of climbers take on the mountain every year.
A long way removed from the “leave no trace” camping that most recreational campers follow these days, the trail to the top of Everest from base camp is littered with remnants from previous expeditions. Along the way to the top, climbers find hundreds of used oxygen bottles, mounds of frozen human waste, and the many fallen climbers who now call Everest their final resting place.
Unfortunately, tragedies occur on Everest every year. Sherpas and other guides are hired to guide climbers to the top but not to carry trash or corpses down with them. While some families spend thousands of dollars to find and recover the bodies of loved ones, an estimated 150-200 bodies still remain on the mountain face.
Some bodies have been covered in snow and typically aren’t visible, but some bodies are seen right along the route. Climbers report that some are in natural positions: as if they are just resting or taking a nap. It’s not unusual for the person’s last facial expression to be forever frozen onto their face. Some have gained notoriety as landmarks and have been given names. Green Boots is the name given to a fallen climber who eternally rests in a small cave. Every climber who takes the popular Northeast Ridge encounters Green Boots.
Recently, awareness of the amount of waste on Everest has increased. Some groups have been organized to collect trash and bodies from the mountain, but some recovery operations are impossible due to location and altitude. Additional efforts are being made by the Nepalese government and others to restrict the amount of climbers given permission to climb each year.