Lifestyle & Belief

Environmentalists call for Port-a-Potties on Mount Everest (VIDEO)


These guys might need a bathroom break... Marathon runners run under a banner at the start of the Everest Hillary Marathon at Everest Base Camp, 29 May 2006. Over 140 marathon runners took part in the race covering 26.2 miles from Everest Base Camp to Namche Bazar from a height of 5,364 meters to 3,446 meters).


Bikash Karki

Imagine it — you've spent weeks battling frostbite and altitude sickness, trudging slowly uphill (Everest, by all accounts, is a marathon, not a sprint).

You're about to "summit," as they say in the biz, and ... well, isn't it always the way: You're busting to use the bathroom and the roof of the world isn't quite the nearest Starbucks, where the most embarrassing thing is asking for the key.

One environmental group wants to save you the embarrassment — and the world's mightiest mountain the pollution. 

Eco Himal, in an interview with Agence France-Presse, said the thousands of trekkers who set off from the South Base Camp in Nepal every year would more easily keep the place clean if public toilets were available.

"Human waste is a problem, of course," said the group's director, Phinjo Sherpa, reportedly said. "I am merely suggesting that if we have public toilets they can be used ... If there could be two or three toilets that would be good but this is just at the planning phase. We will have to decide what is a good idea and what isn't."

Judging by this YouTube video, filmed by climbers, this public toilet at base camp certainly isn't:

Expeditions bring toilet cans, according to the AFP report, but Phinjo Sherpa seems to suggest that the porters — usually Nepalese —  are not permitted to use them.

Meanwhile, Wangchhu Sherpa, president of the Everest Summiteers Association, thinks the idea of sky-high Port-a-Potties is ridiculous: "The ice moves around a lot during the year. If you built toilets at the base camp, the ice would shift and the structures would fall down."

The AFP story suggests that human waste is the least of Everest's problems, evoking the term "world's highest dumpster"    

Eco Everest Expedition, a Nepal-based coalition of environmentalists campaigning to keep the mountain clean, has collected more than 13 tons of garbage, 400 kilos of human waste and four bodies since 2008.

Perhaps 50 years worth of adventurers have been expecting their trash (food wrappers, oxygen bottles, perhaps even toilet tissue) to evaporate into thin air, as it were.

Perhaps climbers should be invited to consider that Everest, besides being one of nature's gifts to the world, is also someone's home: