KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) - Human waste left by climbers on Mount Everest has become a problem that is causing pollution and threatening to spread disease on the world's highest peak, the chief of Nepal's mountaineering association said Tuesday.
The more than 700 climbers and guides who spend nearly two months on Everest's slopes each climbing season leave large amounts of feces and urine, and the issue has not been addressed, Ang Tshering told reporters. He said Nepal's government needs to get the climbers to dispose of the waste properly so the mountain remains pristine.
Nepal official says human waste on Everest is a major problem
Nepalese porters walk up a path high above the north-eastern town of Namche Bazar, as they head to pick up goods from a town at an upper elevation, on April 18, 2015. Local porters like these two men make roughly anywhere from 40-60 USD a month for their back-breaking work, often at altitudes above 3,000 mts. AFP PHOTO/Roberto SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
General view of Base Camp on Mount Everest which is 5364 meters (17,598 ft) above sea level, Nepal
MOUNT EVEREST, NEPAL, AVALANCHE - APRIL 23, 2014: This is DigitalGlobe imagery (image 4) of the avalanche on Mount Everest near Everest Base Camp that killed sixteen Nepalese guides. The avalanche occurred on 18 April 2014. Imagery was collected on April 23th, 2014. (Photo DigitalGlobe via Getty Images)
DELHI, INDIA - DECEMBER 01: The Mount Everest (8848m) in between other himalayan mountains seen from an aeroplane on December 01, 2012 in Delhi, Delhi, India (Photo by EyesWideOpen/Getty Images)
Basanti (L), 14, and her friend Jhalijhsa, 14, walk with their empty baskets down to the north-eastern Nepalese town of Namche Bazar (unseen) on a freshly snow-dusted field near Mt. Kondge (R) on April 18, 2015. Basanti and Jhalijsha were heading to the market in Namche to pick up supplies to take back to their village where they go to school on weekdays, after making their early-morning supply run. For their daily, back-breaking effort, they earn an equivalent of around 70 USD. The town of Namche is a usual stop for trekkers and climbers heading into the Khumbu region. AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
A bank of clouds moves up the valley of the Dudh Koshi river basin into upper elevation at the base of the Nepalese Mount Thambersku (top L) near Namche Bazar in the early morning of April 18, 2015. Trekkers and climbers heading towards the peaks and glaciers deep in the Khumbu region, including Mount Everest, follow this valley as they head north. AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
MOUNT EVEREST, NEPAL, FEBRUARY 13, 2015: A line of trekkers walk through fresh snow beside the Khumbu Glacier, near the base of Mount Everest and Everest Base Camp in the Solu-Khumbu region of Nepal, February 13, 2015. Trekking is the largest sole source of income for many people living in the Solu-Khumbu region, home to the world's highest mountain, Mount Everest (8848m). According to leading researchers, in recent years the landscape and people of the Solu-Khumbu region have come under increasing pressure from raising temperatures and shifting climactic conditions. As well as being home to many of the world's highest mountains, the region holds some of the world's largest and highest glaciers, some of which have begun to show signs of increased and rapid melt. The Khumbu glacier, which lies at the foot of Mount Everest, has in the last decade begun to develop ponds of water on its surface, which scientists say could develop into a much larger lake on the glacierÃ¢s surface if warming trends continue. Recent research indicates that annual mean surface temperature in the Himalaya has increased by 1.5 degrees celsius over pre-industrial temperatures. (Photo by Ed Giles/Getty Images).
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Hundreds of foreign climbers attempt to scale Everest during Nepal's mountaineering season, which began this week and runs through May. Last year's season was canceled after 16 local guides were killed in an avalanche in April.
Climbers spend weeks acclimatizing around the four camps set up between the base camp at 5,300 meters (17,380 feet) and the 8,850-meter-high (29,035-foot-high) summit. The camps have tents and some essential equipment and supplies, but do not have toilets.
"Climbers usually dig holes in the snow for their toilet use and leave the human waste there," Tshering said, adding that the waste has been "piling up" for years around the four camps.
At the base camp, where there are more porters, cooks and support staff during the climbing season, there are toilet tents with drums to store the waste. Once filled, the drums are carried to a lower area, where the waste is properly disposed.
Dawa Steven Sherpa, who has been leading Everest cleanup expeditions since 2008, said some climbers carry disposable travel toilet bags to use in the higher camps.
"It is a health hazard and the issue needs to be addressed," he said.
Nepal's government has not come up with a plan yet to tackle the issue of human waste. But starting this season, officials stationed at the base camp will strictly monitor garbage on the mountain, said Puspa Raj Katuwal, the head of the government's Mountaineering Department.
The government imposed new rules last year requiring each climber to bring down to the base camp 8 kilograms (18 pounds) of trash - the amount it estimates a climber discards along the route.
Climbing teams must leave a $4,000 deposit that they lose if they don't comply with the regulations, Katuwal said.
More than 4,000 climbers have scaled Mount Everest since 1953, when it was first conquered by New Zealand climber Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay. Hundreds of others have died in the attempt, while many have succeeded only with help from oxygen tanks, equipment porters and Sherpa guides.