A young Nepali climber is seeking to popularize a toilet fashioned from a plastic bucket with a lid to promote eco-friendly climbing on Mount Qomolangma. Hundreds of climbers flock to the world’s tallest peak at about 8,850 meters every year, with many simply squatting in the open or hunching behind rocks as the Qomolangma base camp has no proper toilet facilities. Dawa Steven Sherpa, 25, who led an eco-Qomolangma expedition to collect trash dumped by previous climbers, said his team used a plastic bucket as well as a gas-impervious bag designed to safely contain and neutralize human waste and keep in odor. “It is portable and very secure,” Sherpa said, “I want to promote anything that manages human waste on the mountain.”
Sherpa’s team, during its month-long expedition, picked up 965 kg of cans, gas canisters, kitchen waste, tents, parts of an Italian helicopter that crashed 36 years ago and remains of the body of a British climber who died in 1972. In addition, his team also brought down 65 kg of human waste produced by its 18 members, which it handed over to a local environment group at the base camp for management. “To date, no other container designed for human waste exists in this size, weight or strength,” Sherpa said of the U.S.-designed bucket, which is 11 inches tall and weighs 2.4 pounds, and has an opening that is eight inches in diameter.
Tourism, including mountain climbing, is a key source of income and accounts for nearly 4 percent of Nepal’s gross domestic product. About 3,000 people have climbed Mount Qomolangma since it was first scaled by New Zealand’s Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa in 1953, and there are growing concerns about the environmental impact of the large numbers of climbers. “There is a heightened need for environmentally friendly practices in climbing, not only to have a neutral impact on the mountains but a positive impact,” Sherpa said.