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We would like to be guests, guests that are welcome and are greeted with friendliness. We want to avoid everything that could harm the mountains through which we pass and could abuse the hospitality of their people. Considerate guests do not leave ugly marks, neither in the landscape nor in the hearts of the people.
Nobody wants to find paths and campsites in the countryside that are lined with ugly trash and disfigured by dangerous waste. But we tourists and mountaineers come from a society used to equipment, packaging and easy disposal and our habits produce waste that can not be simply absorbed by nature. Tossed away, hidden and buried: our waste is out of place in the mountainous landscape. The UIAA is concerned that increasing mountain tourism produces more and more waste and trash. Trash is ugly, can be dangerous and is always a burden to the environment. You can read about the UIAA’s position on trash and waste disposal here.
Mr Han’s Clean Mountain Expedition
When Wang Yong Han had climbed his final 8000m peak in 2003, he decided to take on a slightly different challenge. The Korean mountaineer would visit all the 14 mountains again, but this time the main goal wasn’t the summits, but trying to clear up the hundreds of tons of rubbish left behind by climbing expeditions every year. He had reached the highest peaks, now he wanted to keep them clean and beautiful for the people who would climb them in the future.
Junko Tabei, the first woman to climb Mount Everest, has estimated that there is between 290 tons and 1,115 tons of rubbish on the mountain. Some is equipment abandoned in emergencies, but other is garbage left by irresponsible expeditions. So far Han has conducted six mountain cleaning expeditions with volunteers. They collect tents, ropes, oxygen bottles, food, tins, cans, clothes and paper from the base camps and mountainsides.
Neither the rubbish problem nor Han’s efforts is restricted to Mount Everest. The 41-year-old’s second cleaning expedition went to K2, where he himself once had to leave behind his equipment because of injury. He made amends for this in 2004 by leading a team of 14 volunteers who carried down two tons of rubbish. So far Han has lead cleaning expeditions to eight mountains including Dhaulagiri and Annapurna.
In 2006 Han led a new expedition to Mount Everest, which cleared 1,3 tons of garbage from the southern slopes. He kept the oxygen bottles they found and set out to give one bottle, decorated with messages about keeping the mountain clean, to each of the expedition teams climbing Everest in 2007. "I think that 'Clean Mountain Event' is an ethical responsibility of all Himalyan climbers, mountain goods companies, and Alpine Federations", says Han.
His efforts in 2007 took him to Makalu. A Brasilian team of 13 people joined in to help starting from Base camp. In all 300kg of garbage were carried out to Kathmandu. The Clean Kangchenjunga project lasted one month in September and October. Han had 11 helpers, and a Swiss and two French people joined his party. At Kanchenjunga Base Camp they collected 200kg of garbage.
Han’s expeditions are also symbolic, aimed at creating publicity and awareness among climbers, so that they too will join in his efforts. He is disappointed that many mountaineers only care about reaching the summits and not about the environmental mess they leave behind. For Han, doing a service to the mountains which has brought him so much joy is a deeply spiritual journey.
For more information, please contact the UIAA or:
The Eco Everest Expedition 2008, led by Dawa Steven Sherpa, has successfully field tested new technologies for environmentally friendly mo ...
Leave no waste- powerpoint presentation
Eco Everest report
Mr Han's Clean Mountains expeditions, Himalaya