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What's being done about Mount Everest's trash problem?

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The world's tallest mountain above sea level has a problem. Garrett Madison has climbed to the peak of Mount Everest 14 times, and on the mountain, he noticed the signs of people who came before.

GARRETT MADISON: My first expedition to Mount Everest in 2006, I noticed some of the trash up on the mountain. This problem has been going on since the first expeditions visited Mount Everest back in the '20s.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

As he would know, because he is a guide himself and a founder of Madison Mountaineering, a company that leads expeditions.

MADISON: At such high altitudes, humans just are very diminished physically and mentally from the low oxygen environment. And it's tough to carry loads down.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, I can imagine. The trash problem there is getting worse, though, especially at a camp near the summit.

MADISON: Part of that might be the amount of climbers on the mountain, or it could be the level of education some teams have in regards to leaving waste.

INSKEEP: So last fall, Madison put together teams to help clean up trash on several mountains. And they've collected around 4,000 pounds, about half of those 4,000 pounds from Mount Everest itself. But the trips are not easy.

MADISON: We can suffer from high-altitude illness. There's obviously weather storms, could be dangerous route conditions or avalanche conditions.

MARTÍNEZ: He says each team includes about a dozen climbers and twice as many support Sherpas. And each person can only carry around 25 to 30 pounds of trash per trip.

MADISON: You can't push the body too hard, so we need to do everything very slowly and deliberately. So it's like life or work in slow motion.

INSKEEP: Nepal is urging climbers not to leave so much trash, but that work, too, is slow.

(SOUNDBITE OF PINO PALLADINO AND BLAKE MILLS'S "DJURKEL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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