At more than 29,000 feet in elevation, Mount Everest holds the record as the tallest mountain in the world above sea level. By consequence, it is also the place where you are least likely to be hit by a tsunami. Bet you didn’t know that.
The people who attempt to scale the dangerous and menacing slopes to get to the top enjoy membership in one of the most exclusive clubs of the world. They also hold the record for being the highest-altitude litterbugs in the world. There are now so many who have conquered its slopes that it has also become the world’s highest landfill above sea level.
Yes, the rugged mountaineers who manage to successfully scale the world’s tallest mountain have been leaving a trail of filth in their wake. And the garbage is piling up.
There used to be only a handful of people capable of scaling the world’s tallest peak. Now in the information era, all you need is a few thousand dollars and a Sherpa who needs some bucks to pay his mortgage and off you go. More than 800 people a year climb the mountain now. There are so many climbers cellphone towers are routinely dropping calls.
What was a monumental human achievement is now a fast food industry-type business. It’s a lot easier just leaving the stuff there than bringing it back down with you. I mean who’s around to see it? Grand Central Station it is not. And it’s not as if there are recycling bins every hundred feet.
So what kind of trash do you encounter on the peaks of Everest? Well, anything from empty oxygen cylinders, tin cans, gas canisters, torn tents, excrement (that’s poop to you and me) and, of course, dead bodies. About 200 of them. Not everyone makes it back alive, you know. What would be the thrill in that?
The human waste is the biggest problem. It stays frozen until being washed down the mountain by receding glaciers and entering one of those pristine mountain streams flowing to villages at the bottom of the mountain. Mexico it ain’t, but if you go there, don’t drink the water!
The local government is trying to come to grips with the issue and has come up with some interesting ideas. One is to require all mountaineers to bring back more trash than they take up. That means picking up everybody else’s mess. Something you swore up and down you wouldn’t ever do for your brother or sister growing up. I guess you get a bonus for retrieving a corpse.
A typical climber needs several pounds of equipment, most notably oxygen. Humans not used to the thin air need oxygen or their judgment will become impaired and will have trouble thinking and become confused, like Congress.
In 1978 the first man was able to climb to the peak without oxygen. He did this by holding his breath for 12 hours. Or so he claimed. There aren’t any witnesses at 29,000 feet, so I guess we’ll have to take his word for it.
And finally, one odd thing mountain climbers have been doing when their party reaches the top is engage in a childhood game of hide and seek. Recently however one man whose turn it was to find everybody decided to wait at the very top to count to 10 before seeking them out. He then smashed the record for finding all the hiders in record time and was accused of cheating. Nobody could figure out how he found everybody so quickly. I guess he must have peaked.
Due to technical errors, we did not have a winner this week. Please note that the correct answer was “1,000 M. = 1 M.” was “1,000 Millimeters = 1 Meter.” The word “meter” was listed in last week’s column.
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