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Eco-friendly expeditions to the test
21 Apr 2008
This month, the Eco Everest 2008 expedition is field testing an environmentally-friendly approach to climbing. The expedition also aims to draws attention to climate change and has unveiled the world’s highest photo exhibition.
The members want to raise awareness about the impact of climate change and melting glaciers in the Himalayas, with a special focus on glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) risk in the Khumbu region. The 11 member climbing team, led by Dawa Steven Sherpa, started from Everest Base Camp on 18th April.
The expedition is field testing an eco-friendly approach to climbing, including a ten-point plan that could be used as a basis for an international certification for environmentally friendly climbing expeditions.
One important part of this approach is to bring down garbage from Everest, including that left by other groups, and encourage others to do the same. To encourage proper garbage disposal, the Eco Everest Expedition will offer High Altitude Sherpas attractive cash incentives for every kilo of garbage and debris they pick up on their route and bring back down to base camp. Dawa Steven have raised the funds for the garbage cleanup and hope to make this an ongoing project.
The expedition is also field testing a portable toilet for expeditions, the Clean Mountain Can (CMC), conceived by mountaineering ranger Roger Robinson. Human waste left on the slopes of mountains is not only an eyesore, but also often the source of polluted snow which can give climbers gastrointestinal illnesses.
Dawa Steven believe that there are solutions to Global warming if we all work together. Therefore he is very happy to have the endorsement of world renowned mountaineers including Reinhold Messner, Conrad Anker, and Peter Habeler. In addition comes support from renowned Japanese conservationist Ken Noguchi, the Nepal Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Tourism Board, and Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation and numerous local, regional, and international organisations.
Through the preparations for the expedition, Dawa Steven has also got new ideas and new challenges for eco-friendly climbing. Bill Putnam, Honorary member of the UIAA, asked him if an expedition using gas, a non-renewable energy, for cooking can truly be called eco-friendly? The experienced expedition leader had no answer, as he had always taken using cooking gas for granted. But with Putnam's challenge came the encouragement to look for alternative solutions.
Sometimes more than good ideas is needed. Therefore, as part of the Eco Everest campaign the ICIMOD Eco Everest Trust Fund has been set up to finance further research and early warning systems for glacier lake outburst floods. At a press conference on 3 April, a check for US$ 20,000, representing US $ 2,000 per climber, was handed over to ICIMOD by Dawa Steven Sherpa.