KATHMANDU, Nepal (NEWSnet/AP) — The highest camp on Mount Everest is littered with garbage.

Nepal’s government-funded team of soldiers and Sherpas removed 11 tons of garbage, four dead bodies and a skeleton from Everest during the 2024 climbing season.

Ang Babu Sherpa, who led the team, said there still could be 50 tons of garbage at South Col, the last camp before climbers make their attempt on the summit.

“The garbage left there was mostly old tents, some food packaging and gas cartridges, oxygen bottles, tent packs, and ropes used for climbing and tying up tents,” he said.

Since the peak was reached for the first time in 1953, thousands of climbers have scaled the mountain, and many have left behind more than footprints.

In recent years, the government requires that climbers bring back garbage, or lose their deposit. The measure has reduced the amount of garbage. That was not the case in earlier decades.

“Most of the garbage is from older expeditions,” Ang Babu said.

Sherpas collected garbage and bodies from the higher-attitude areas, and  soldiers worked at lower levels and the base camp area for weeks during the spring climbing season.

Digging out the garbage is a major task, since trash is frozen inside ice.

Three tons of decomposable items have been taken to villages near Everest’s base and the remaining eight were carried by porters and yaks, the delivered by trucks to Kathmandu. There, it is sorted for recycling at a facility operated by Agni Ventures, which manages recyclable waste.

“The oldest waste we received was from 1957, and that was rechargeable batteries for torch lights,” said Sushil Khadga of Agni Ventures.

Why do climbers leave garbage?

“At that high altitude, life is very difficult and oxygen is very low,” Khadga said. “Climbers and their helpers are more focused on saving themselves,” Khadga said.

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