Basic Summary of Research in Objective #2: Despite past research on Mount Everest examining human physiology at extreme altitudes, statistics of climber’s success, and environmental impacts to the peak, little has been done to examine the visitor experience with crowding and subsequent climber’s perception of risk and challenges, including environmental concerns. Understanding the environmental issues on Everest is complex. Human waste and environmental concerns associated with high climbing frequency is the sole purpose for the recent Eco-Everest Expeditions each year from 2008 to 2011, aimed towards cleaning up the mountain. From these efforts, a number of environmentally related research topics have developed and are the focus of the research component and Objective #2 for the 2012 climbing expedition for Mount Everest.
High climbing frequency from commercialization of Everest in the past two decades may be the obvious culprit of environmental pressures. The exponential increase in climbers on Mount Everest in the past years since 2000 is staggering, with nearly 1,500 successful summit attempts and another 4,000 failed attempts. In the 2006 and 2007 climbing seasons, the mountain was visited by more climbers than ever before, nearly 1,000 each year with successful attempts of 450 and 600 for 2006 and 2007, respectively. While 2007 was a peak year, 2008 and 2009 saw about 1,000 summit attempts each season, with 421 summits in 2008 and 444 in 2009 (Salisbury 2009)
It is hypothesized that certain climbing experiences such as the camaraderie on a team, the views, and the challenge are seen as positive indicators of 'optimal experience' while human waste issues and crowding may take away from a positive climbing experience (Kedrowski 2008, 2009, 2010). Which indicators will be evident on the World's highest peak? The primary objective of this investigation on Mount Everest is to develop new knowledge about the different demographic backgrounds, climbing skill levels, visitor experiences, and perception of inherent risks associated with a typical summit attempt of the highest mountain on Earth. The goal of the project is to measure the social and physical concerns of visitor use through water and air quality testing ion the Upper Khumbu Valley.
Because human waste is such a complex concern on Everest, I will be launching a pilot study this year to collect and test water samples from the Khumbu Glacier on the climbing route and various points near and below Everest Basecamp. Fecal Coliforms, and E.Coli, are among the bacteria and contaminants that will be looked at in this study of water quality. The goal is to use this data to help the Nepal Mountaineering Association and Sagarmatha National Park implement better human waster policies for climbers and trekkers in the region.
My friend Dan Mazur who will be leading my expedition is also working with the Mount Everest Foundation for Sustainable Development and Engineers without borders to deal with Human Waste especially from Villages like Gorak Shep and Namche Bazaar. It is true that waste may be packed off of Mount Everest and from basecamp, but if it is deposited into unsanitary pits near these villages and not disposed of properly, it may still be negatively impacting the environment. Check out their website www.mteverestbiogasproject.org for more information.