Cleaning Up Mount Everest

Cleaning Up Mount Everest


 Just a bit of the rubbish collected from basecamp and Gorak Shep being burned and processed for transport to lower altitude. Woman using Biogas stove. 
Recent News:
During April and May of 2012, Arnold Coster and Jon Kedrowski, while engaged in the month long project of climbing to the Summit of Everest with a succesful SummitClimb Everest expedition, heroically spent their rest days below basecamp studying the contamination of the drinking water and the drainage of the soil for installation of a biogas digester to convert the human waste from basecamp into useful cooking gas and fertilizer for local farmers. Well done Jon and Arnold! Here is a preliminary report of their findings.


 Porter dips water from a barely flowing spring at Gorak Shep. We studied water samples from this spring in 2010 and found them to be contaminated.

Recent News by Jon Kedrowski, Ph.D.: The water quality testing in the Khumbu was done primarily in five locations:  On the Khumbu Glacier at Basecamp, at the bottom of the glacier where it comes out and starts a river, and at Camp 2 on the Everest Route.  I also surveyed and tested water sources in and near Luboche (4900m) and Gorak Shep (5200m).

Most of the sources at all locations had anywhere between 2 and 20x the USEPA legal limit for drinking water contamination for E.Coli and Total Coliforms.

I am looking forward to presenting the complete surveys and findings to the Mount Everest Biogas Team in their next Meeting in Seattle.


 Gorak Shep, a busy tourist village at the edge of the Khumbu Glacier at 5,180 meters / 17,000 feet. At the bottom of the photo, you can see porters carrying toilet drums. 

Recent News by Arnold Coster: The soil percolates very well: I dug three holes: one next to the porter house on the right. One halfway towards the dry lake and one in the dry lake. All in the same line. There where each 25cmx25cm and 40 cm deep.

The water soaks out in minutes. During the presoaking the holes almost empty straight away. After the presoaking it a little slower but not much, you see the water level drop and the slowest hole took only 8 min.

The soil consist of sand, small stones and gravel and its really hard to dig a hole. There is nothing solid like clay in the soil and between the rocks are air gaps. It's kind of loose, Therefore the soil percolates very well.

This is what I can tell you now, exact numbers I can send you later. I don't think they really matter though, It's pretty good if 25 liter soaks away in 8 min and this is a pretty low tech inaccurate test also. 7 or 8 min doesn't really matter for the conclusion. 

Cleaning Up Mount Everest

While visiting our world’s highest mountain, climbers, trekkers, and walkers take away great memories, lots of photos and new friends, but leave behind their untreated waste. This needs to stop. At the Mount Everest Biogas Project our mission is to convert human waste from base camp into environmentally safe products for the people of Nepal, by designing a biogas system that can operate at high altitudes (above 5000 meters / 16,400 feet). The Mount Everest area is a destination for climbers, trekkers, and walkers from all over the world. Climbers come to the mountain to participate in one of the world’s most prestigious and challenging events – an icy and freezing cold and windy summit attempt to the top of Mt. Everest or one of its sister peaks. Trekkers, hikers and walkers come to experience the wide and beautiful trails through green terraced villages, the high altitude walk to world famous Everest Basecamp, and to trek up the spectacular view ridge of Kala Patar for one of a kind views of our world’s highest peak. You wont find any snow on these hiking trails, but lots of friendly sherpas and amazing views. At the Mt. Everest Biogas project, we are designing a new solution that will help out not only everyone’s favourite big mountain, but an innovative idea that can be broadened to high mountain environments round the world.

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Stunning cloud swirls atop Everest (Alex Holt). Gavin sets off for Lhotse. Check out the winds aloft (Alex Holt). team in Everest basecamp. Trekkers walk up Kala Patar view ridge. Mount Pumori in background (Miyako Mori).  

Short Term Goal:

The immediate goal is to construct a biogas digester which will operate at lower temperatures at Gorak Shep (elevation 5,180 meters / 17,000 feet) and evaluate its effectiveness in converting human waste from Mount Everest into methane gas for the local community and fertilizer for crops. Back to top

Gorak Shep (elevation 5,180 meters / 17,000 feet) with Mount Pumori in the background.

Long Term Goal:

The long-term goal is to utilize 100% of the waste products generated in the base camps of Mt Everest and surrounding peaks in an anaerobic digester system which will generate methane gas and fertilizer. And second, to replicate the system in other high altitude areas thereby improving the lives of the people and the environment by reducing pollution, deforestation, health risks and costs to obtain alternate fuel sources and to produce high quality agricultural fertilizer to help out local farmers. Back to top

Biogas Diagram. Back to top


Building the biogas digester dome.What a biogas plant looks like after back filling. 

Traditional Nepalese cooking method before biogas. Burning wood on an open and chimneyless fire inside the house, where everyone breathes the toxic smoke, especially the cooks.On the way out of basecamp we took photos of glacial lakes for doctor Ulyana Nadia Horodyskyj, who is studying glacial recession. Back to top


 Everest basecamp toilet with blue barrel below slightly visible. Porters carrying blue barrel toilet drums at Gorak Shep. Back to top

Using slurry from the digester to increase crop yields by as much as 20 percent. Why there are so many respiratory problems in Nepal. Before biogas they burned wood indoors with no chimney. Back to top

The famous Hillary Step going up towards the summit of Everest (Richard Pattison Photo).

Here is one low-tech method of making biogas at higher elevations by stacking compost as insulation on the lid of the digester and covering with black plastic.  Namche Bazaar, the largest village near to Everest, has suffered horrible deforestation, note the town has barely a single tree, the hillside stripped of vegetation , and the landslide on the right side of the photo. Back to top

Biogas Schematic.  Back to top

 Gorak Shep, a busy tourist village at the edge of the Khumbu Glacier at 5,180 meters / 17,000 feet. At the bottom of the photo, you can see porters carrying toilet drums. Porter dips water from a barely flowing spring at Gorak Shep. We studied water samples from this spring in 2010 and found them to be contaminated.

SummitTrek Spring 2011 team in Lobuche with Nuptse behind (Chris Howard) .Pramila Kumari resting beside a lake inside the Khumbu Glacier on the way to basecamp. Back to top


Porters with heavy loads on the way up to Namche Bazaar. Everything in this region has to be carried in on the backs of porters. There are no roads. (Stewart Edge).  Deforestation in action: Woodcutters carrying firewood over the Monjo bridge.


Packing up basecamp at the end of the Everest Season. Each April and May Everest basecamp is home to 500-1000 people from Nepal and countries from all over the world. Back to top

Yaks with blue barrels


Everest basecamp at 5300 metres / 17,380 feet. On the left, the west ridge of Everest, in the centre, the famous Khumbu Icefall, right: Mount Nuptse. View of Mt. Everest from Kala Patar (Rick Gross).   Back to top

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