There is hope: for a sustainable Everest

Sagarmāthā, Qomolangma, Everest…

Imagining getting close to the base camp must give one the chills. I imagine being surrounded by the majesty of the Himalayan peaks as the warmest hug one could ever get.

It may be a deep personal insight but I strongly believe that a journey like this requires going through a preparation; physical, mental and spiritually, in the best of cases.

I imagine being welcomed in, walking through the valleys and across the rivers as an honored guest. And, as the guest that I would be, showing a due respect is just a compulsory rule.

Unfortunately, for some, the images of a massively crowded top of the world and a huge dump field comes to their minds when we think of Mount Everest nowadays.

Among the 11 tons of recovered trash from the 45-day project are food wrappers, cans, bottles and empty oxygen cylinders, Tourism Department official Danduraj Ghimire said “Cleaning up the mountain has been extremely difficult due to unpredictable weather conditions, inaccessibility of certain areas and the inherent dangers involved.”

Source: CBS News

“Two mountaineers have died on Mount Everest after crowds of people became stuck in a queue leading to the summit of the world’s highest mountain.

This handout photo taken on May 22, 2019 and released by climber Nirmal Purja’s Project Possible expedition shows heavy traffic of mountain climbers lining up to stand at the summit of Mount Everest.

Climber Nirmal Purja posted a picture on Instagram of the heavy human traffic on the mountain Wednesday, showing a dense trail of climbers huddling on an exposed ridge to the summit. He added that there were roughly 320 people in the queue to the top of the mountain in an area known as the “death zone.”

Source: CNN

It’s not the mountains we conquer but ourselves – Edmund Hillary.

Many must have got it wrong then when it is clearly not about one alone, not about an ego thing. Not in a deep meaning, at least. There is not or should not be space for such a word in an experience in the mountains. Ego could actually mean death in the worst case scenario. There is one basic lesson to learn from Nature and that is that we are all connected, we are all in this together.

It is quite sad to think that nowadays anyone who has the money, a bit of luck and has “The North Face” gear on their fancy backpack seems like they have the right to think of conquering the highest point on this planet. Conquering… Just one more time: “it’s not the mountains we conquer but ourselves”.

Is there really any satisfaction in fulfilling one’s ego or “dreams” when you leave this behind your back? 

This has been going on for decades, the situation has changed a lot during this time and it is not fair to attribute it to all climbers and adventurers who have ever been to Everest, of course. However, something can be done so “Good luck on climbing a huge pile of trash” is not the future wishing-you-the-best motivation sentence.

I am aware of talking about morality when the problem is, indeed, way bigger than just a moral dilemma.

The effects of the climate crisis are rapidly recording new records in the famous Everest and, according to new research, the vegetation has already reached 6,000 meters above sea level.

Researchers published in the journal Global Change Biology (University of Exeter, UK), that there is a small but significant expansion of vegetation in the area around Mount Everest. Specifically, on the line between the trees and the snow (from 4,150 and up to 6,000 meters).

In a matter of years, where you should find snow, now there is flora instead and where you would usually see an icefall, you would now see water running down the stream. These ecosystems, just like many others around the world, are very fragile and not used to sudden changes.

On a not so negative note…

Due to the current world situation we find ourselves in, there has been quite a few photos like this famous image taken from hundreds of kilometers far from the Himalaya. People in India can see the Enormous Range for the first time in decades, as one of the lockdown “positive consequences” is the ease of air pollution.

This is just an example of many around the world, showing that we do have a clear issue and that we cannot go back to how things were before the lockdown. 

We are all in this together, for better or for worse, and what is being done wrong “here”, it affects the other side of the world.

Some other great news coming from the Everest and other Himalayan peaks:

“A plan to clear 35,000kg of rubbish has been slammed by some of Nepal’s leading mountaineers”. 

Source: BBC

Although there is some controversy regarding how, who and when this should happen due to the current situation. Hopefully this can be carried on soon in the safest and fairest way for sherpas and climbers involved.

Looking on the bright side.

Outdoor athletes (climbers,ultrarunners, skiers, snowboarders, surfers etc) are undoubtedly the people who are the most aware of these changing times. 

There are great initiatives; from the Honnold Foundation supported by the “Free Solo” climber Alex Honnold to the activism promoted by big brands (beware of Greenwashing though) such as “Opération Montagne Responsable” or Action Works.

Alex Txikon Expedition – #RoadToHimalaya

I would like to give a more than well deserved shout out to Alex Txikon and all his team.

Alex has a huge and remarkable experience in the Himalaya and in high altitudes in general and therefore, he has been able to witness this ongoing change throughout the time and all around the world. There is no doubt about Climate Change, he has claimed and, in fact, Alex also relates how these changes are much more noticeable this winter than on his two previous winter Everest expeditions.

As the mountaineer described, the river does not freeze and the water runs all day through the Base Camp. “I sleep in Camp 2 with a 350 gram bag, something unthinkable in previous attempts, and I have seen water at 6500 meters, when it is only sunny from 9am to 2.45pm.” Alex says.


Far from this being just words, Alex’s latest expedition to Everest this winter was supported in an amazing sustainable way.

“Thanks to EVE (Energiaren Euskal Erakundea – Ente Vasco de la Energía) we’ve been able to avoid using 100 litres of fossil fuel to cover Base Camp’s energy needs. We’ve installed three 100w solar panels! We support solar energy. Welcome Ekian and kudos to our friends at Basque’s organization for Energy!”

Source: Alex Txikon

“Recently we shared a post about avoiding fossil fuel and using solar power instead. Today we want to share two further actions we take to make our expedition more sustainable. 

  1. Using filter and ultraviolet light water purifiers. We’ve filtered 3l per person a day – imagine, a total of 1.100 plastic bottles since we started the approaching trek! 

  2. We’ve separated to recycle 40kg paper, plastic, cans and glass. We even carry back and dispose of our own (poo) in three 20kg. drums! We’ve got to do our best to minimize the impact we cause on such wonderful but also fragile environments.”

Source: Alex Txikon


A true commitment in which thoughts and actions meet, where it was shown that a change is possible. May this be a leading path to a prosperous change for the future of Alpinism, outdoor sports and more. 

We are living through a climate crisis and we have the responsibility to use these times to take in, to learn and to tackle the issue.

Thanks to people like Alex and all the people who believe, support and work for a sustainable present, for giving hope for a better future.