19th Everest Summit

Record-holding Sherpa begins trek today for yet another summit—this time with an eco-friendly twist

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How many times have you climbed Mt. Everest? If you answered zero, we’re with you. Once? We’re pretty impressed. If you’re Appa, a 48-year-old Sherpa guide, you’ve got eighteen summits under your belt and are hoping to cinch number nineteen in May.

Appa, along with his climbing team, set out today for Everest with plans of ascending the peak for the nineteenth time. If he completes the climb, he’ll have pounded out over 100 miles on the world’s highest peak since his first ascent in 1989. He told the Associated Press, “Everest is not easy to climb, but after scaling the summit so many times, I am more confident and experienced. It should not be too difficult but I have to always be careful.”

It turns out his team is planning to be careful in more ways than one. We’re all familiar with the policy of packing out used toilet paper a la Leave No Trace, but their team is taking it to the next level and carrying all of their human waste off the mountain too. The hundreds of bags they’ve packed to haul their own excrement will also be used to bring down other trash that’s been left by past climbers and has earned the mountain the title of World’s Highest Garbage Dump.

It’s a rather dirty example to set, but they are hoping their efforts will have an impact on future expeditions. For Appa, it’s a matter of respect: “The mountain is not just a god for us but the snow and ice is the source for water we drink. Leaving behind human waste is not just insulting to the mountain god but also contaminates the source of water.”

He’s already set the world record for most Everest ascents (check out another Sherpa record setter, Lakpa Rita, who talked to BACKPACKER about hitting the Seven Summits here) but we think he should also be recognized as the most, uh, eco-conscious climber. His practices may not be ultralight, but they sure are green.

—Morgan Keys

Sherpa Sets Out to Climb Mt. Everest for 19th Time (NYTimes)

Image credit: Kappa Wayfarer (via Flickr)