October 3rd, 2018
After a long day of trekking, we dropped our bags in Gorakshep and hit the trail again to make it to EBC before the sunset. The trail was long and chilly, the greenery and views had long fallen away back in Tengboche. All that was left was snow-capped mountains and grey rocks.
Today is the day we did it!
We made it to Everest Base Camp!
Don’t let the disheartening title fool you.
Making it to EBC unscathed is an achievement unto itself. Not one that should be taken lightly. Trekkers train and face enormous strife along the trail to EBC and sometimes they have to turn back before reaching Base camp. Reaching EBC is a once in a lifetime experience (more than once if you’re lucky!) and no one can take that away from you.
The feeling of approaching the small bit of rocks and flags that make up the unofficial/official EBC site is unparalleled.
But I’m not here to talk about the warm fuzzy feelings and sense of pride. I’m here to shed light on the ever-growing tourist boom at EBC and Everest itself.
Let me throw some facts at you. Doing a quick Google search on the number of people who go to EBC and the number of people who climb Mt Everest will already bring up some unsavory results.
35,000 (approx) people trek to EBC/ year
4000 People have summited Everest since 1953
265 People have died on Everest between 1922-2014 (more sherpas than non-nationals)
65,000$ Using a Western company to summit Everest
35,000$ Using a local company to summit…
Begging the question of SAFETY and proper pay for sherpas.
For every 10 summits, there is 1 death.
50 tonnes of trash each year
26,000 lbs of human waste each year
Ok ok, that’s enough depressing facts for now, but the reality is real, we are trashing the world’s tallest mountain every day of every year.
Budget tour companies are offering cheap expeditions that put the sherpas and customers lives in danger, bringing un-experienced people up to the mountain. Those people often abandon their gear on the mountain and are in complete disregard for proper trekking etiquette (bring in what you take out). Their inexperience is extremely dangerous for themselves and the mountains environment. The local’s water supply is contaminated and unsafe to drink due to the waste being washed down from the mountain.
And that’s just summiting the mountain, let me tell you some things I noticed about the trek.
We began our trek in low season, so we rarely saw anyone on the trail except the people who started on the same day as us. On the way back down there was traffic on the trails, and I’m not just talking about the yaks, I’m talking about actual human foot traffic. FORGET about hiking as fast or slow as you like you’re bound to piss off many…many people.
There are lots of garbage cans along the trail that seem (for the most part) to be well maintained (except at EBC where there is trash on the ground).
Every town along the way has wifi for sale, including the village before EBC, Gorakshep.
Every town has KitKat/ Coca Cola or some variation of the sort for sale.
Every town has some “American meals” on the menu (like spaghetti, mac & cheese, etc)
Now imagine how much manpower goes into bringing the materials up the mountain to sell/ make those meals and how much trash is accumulated because of this. Tourism has brought “western” tastes to an Eastern country and they have been kind and accommodating for us, at the cost of their husband’s backs, yaks lives and environmental impact. Imagine a regular restaurant that makes simple meals like this and how much trash they produce. They can easily sort it into garbage, organics, and recycling and dispose of waste right in the back of the building.
Now imagine this process on a GODDAMN MOUNTAIN.
That’s not to say the local meals are much better as most of the food has to be brought up the mountain but eating as much “local food” usually has less garbage and less environmental miles than “American” options
Approaching EBC there will be traffic as everyone who started the same day as you will probably be reaching EBC the same day as you.
You will have to wait your turn for photos on the famous EBC rock pile, just as you would at Kelingking beach in Bali, the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Brooklyn Bridge in NYC.
There will be approximately 15-40 people at EBC waiting for photos and you ARE on a time crunch. You have to almost fight your way up onto that small rock hill and know your poses beforehand because people will come into your photo “effectively telling you it’s time to GTFO”
Knowing some of the garbage facts about EBC I still went in naively expecting it to be a magical, life-changing experience. Don’t get me wrong, it was, and this in no way should deter you from going but you should also prepare yourself for the hordes of tourists and everything (good and bad) that comes with mass tourism.