Climb Everest in 2016 / 17 / 18 etc with 4 times summiteer Tim Mosedale

Everest Expedition via South Col 2016 / 2017 / 18 / 19 etc

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Proposal for poo bags to be used on Ama Dablam as standard policy (first published Dec 2013 but updated with extra Everest information).

This was first published back in December 2013. Given the recent attention that the media has given Everest regarding garbage and poo I thought it relevant to add a little extra information which I have appended.

Please read, comment, like and share ...

For my next Ama Dablam expedition I will be issuing everyone with biodegradable poo bags. They don't weigh much but their use will be so beneficial to everyone - not only my team but other teams who are on the mountain as well.

Presently there is no policy about human waste on Ama Dablam and it is a problem. Not only is it unpleasant but potentially there are health issues. I am sure that someone on some team undoubtedly gets ill every season ... and that then jeopardises their summit bid and the health and well being of the rest of their team.

It is standard practice on Denali and at Yosemite to bag it up and bag it out and because that is how it is then everyone does it. On Everest, Cho Oyu, Manaslu, Baruntse etc the high camps are on glaciated areas so digging a toilet pit is easy and when it's there then people use it. If it gets full, or unpleasant, then it can be filled in and another one can be dug out.

But on Ama Dablam the camps are on rocky platforms and toilet pits can't be excavated. And although a team may allocate a 'toilet area' it would be difficult to convey this to other teams and so the result is that people go anywhere they choose. Which means that everyone is living around everyone else's excrement ... which is just plain filthy.

So I am hoping to shift this from being the accepted norm and hoping that everyone will adopt a cleaner policy of poohing in a bag ... and then discarding it. Unfortunately carrying poo bags off the mountain probably won't work as well as it might on, say, Denali, because the onus may well start to fall on the Climbing Sherpas and it would be utterly degrading for that to be one of their responsibilities on the hill. They already take on the roll of clearing the hill of tents, pots, pans etc as well as bringing down gear that clients have left up there. To ask them to also be bringing down human waste would be totally unacceptable.

In The Alps no one has a problem with the fact that there might be a long drop at a hut that is sending waste down a rocky face or in to a bergshrund - they accept that that is how it is and the logistics of trying to get soil pipes installed just isn't feasible. Admittedly there are some huts where composting toilets are installed and are working to great effect but they are usually more accessible huts that have a suitable area for such a 21st century approach.

So my proposal for Ama Dablam is that anyone at Camp 1 or Camp 2 should crap in a biodegradable bag and toss the bag and its contents down the West face. That way all the waste is going in the same place, it will undoubtedly get scattered as it falls down the face and will subsequently rot down to nothing.

I'd like this proposal to be circulated before I approach the main companies who also take expeditions to Ama Dablam so that I can be speaking on behalf of lots of you rather than just trying to shout in to the wind. I made this proposal after my last expedition at The Ministry of Tourism and quite frankly it fell on deaf ears. I think that they saw it as a difficult policy to implement and to police. But it doesn't need policing if it just becomes the accepted method.

So please 'like', 'share' and 'comment' so that this becomes de rigueur and the experience for future people on Ama Dablam becomes a cleaner experience.

March 2015 update ...

As ever the news prior to the upcoming Everest season is reaching fever pitch with reports about this, that and the other. There is a great deal of speculation and the journos are having a field day with their factually incorrect and misguided comments.

But the one thing that has reared it's head in the last week is that of garbage and faeces on Everest. I could send you a photo that shows the mountain in pristine condition and I could equally change the angle, gather some rubbish and show you how disgracefully polluted it is.

It isn't.

Yes there is some rubbish but it is not nearly as bad as the tabloids are making out.

As for the pooh ... well at Base Camp everyone uses a barrel with a heavy duty bag in it and the bag is removed every few days. On the mountain we generally go in discreet spots away from our and other people's tents (our expedition digs a dedicated loo area at C1 and we use a toilet tent over a small crack in the ice at C2) and quite frankly when you multiply the number of people by the number of trips on the hill to the various camps by the amount that they produce it really only amounts to a few kilos per expedition which will, in reality, very quickly desiccate and / or self compost away.

Anyway this is just a reminder of the fact that I proposed a poo bag solution for Ama Dablam over a year ago and guess what? That's right ... in 2015 we were the only team to really give it a go (if you'll excuse the pun).

I spoke with the Ministry of Tourism in December 2013 and voiced my concerns and they were not in the least bit interested. Indeed they actually found it abhorrent to even talk about the subject of human waste.

So why then have they recently started voicing their concerns? I suspect that it is their way of avoiding the more pressing issues of whether they have decided that permits from Everest 2014 are for individuals or groups and whether they are transferrable so that the client can decide who they go back with.

It is also yet to be seen whether they will be introducing the security measures that they talked about in 2013 ... that didn't transpire in 2014.

It's basically 'Smoke and mirrors'. Or as they described in the film Lucky Number Slevin 'The Kansas City Shuffle - when everyone looks right and you go left.'


  1. Totally with you on this, and there are a few other places where they should become standard. However, starting small, as a trial. is one way to go.

  2. Hi Jamie, hadn't seen your comment until now. Thanks for the reply and glad that I'm not just pissing in the wind so to speak. Arriving KTM Fri 28th and departing Tues 1st Apr. See you if you're around. Cheers - Tim

  3. Absolutely the right thing to do. Cheers Kate

  4. Hi Tim,

    If it's degrading for Sherpas to carry it down then perhaps it's something western guides and leaders should be doing to demonstrate there's no shame in cleaning up behind you? ;-)

    But I'm only half joking. It's great that you're trying to drum up some consensus among climbers and operators, and I hope you get cooperation.

    You may be right the waste rots away eventually, but it takes an awfully long time up there and throwing it down the face just doesn't seem right. Why shouldn't climbers cache it at the higher camps and pick it up on the way down? As you point out, we're all prepared to do it on mountains like Denali and Aconcagua, so I don't see why we shouldn't on Ama Dablam and Everest too.


    1. Hi Mark, indeed you are right on many counts but I don't want to try and push too hard (excuse the pun) from the start. I thought that the gently, gently approach might make it become the norm for pooh to at least be bagged and then we can address the issue of carrying it off the hill at a later date.

      Dog walkers in the UK can't even do it (or when they do they hang the bag in the hedge which completely defeats the object) so trying to get it done in an extreme environment does have its challenges.

      Partly it is getting folk to realise the various issues but there is definitely a problem about even broaching the subject. Everyone just buries their head in the sand. And unlike Denali, where it is not only accepted but also actively enforced, it will be unenforceable in Nepal until the Ministry of Tourism actually acknowledge the issue and include it in their briefings.

      Even then there will be the more unscrupulous people who just carry on as normal.

      But I will persist and hopefully get a mood swing in favour of keeping the mountain clean (or cleaner than it is presently).