Background Reading

Presenting a selection of articles that highlight diverse challenges in the Mt. Everest ecosystem.

Hands Around Everest bookA Short History of Everest and The Mountain Institute

The Mountain Institute has been supporting conservation and culture in the greater Mt. Everest Ecosystem since the early 1980s, when we began research on what would become the Makalu-Barun National Park and Buffer Zone on the southeastern flanks of the Mt. Everest massif, and Qomolongma Nature Preserve on the north side of Everest.

Please click here to view a selection of TMI’s publications on the Mt. Everest region.


Jenkins_EverestMaxedOut_NG2013Maxed Out on Everest: How to fix the mess at the top of the world

By Mark Jenkins, National Geographic Magazine, May 2013
An hour above high camp on the Southeast Ridge of Everest, Panuru Sherpa and I passed the first body. The dead climber was on his side, as if napping in the snow, his head half covered by the hood of his parka, goose down blowing from holes torn in his insulated pants. Ten minutes later we stepped around another body, her torso shrouded in a Canadian flag, an abandoned oxygen bottle holding down the flapping fabric. Trudging nose to butt up the ropes that had been fixed to the steep slope, Panuru and I were wedged between strangers above us and below us. The day before, at Camp III, our team had been part of a small group. But when we woke up this morning, we were stunned to see an endless line of climbers passing near our tents.

Ang Tshering Sherpa's Speech to UIAAAng Tshering Sherpa’s Speech at the General Assembly of the UIAA, 5 October 2013

By Ang Tshering Sherpa, Asian Trekking

The international conference “Mountaineering and Climate Change” raised many questions, including the Everest incident during spring 2013, commercial and non-commercial mountaineering and adventure tourism, traffic on Everest, fixing of a ladder at the Hillary step, garbage on Everest, impact of climate change and global warming in high Himalayan regions, and the threat of catastrophic glacial lake outburst floods, etc. The following are our views.

Disposable Man Sherpas on Everest OutsideThe Disposable Man: A Western History of Sherpas on Everest

By Grayson Schaffer, Outside Magazine, August 2013

For more than a century, Western climbers have hired Nepal’s Sherpas to do the most dangerous work on Mount Everest. It’s a lucrative way of life in a poor region, but no service industry in the world so frequently kills and maims its workers for the benefit of paying clients. As Grayson Schaffer reports, the dead are often forgotten, and their families left with nothing but ghosts.

The following articles are from an extensive series in The Guardian:

Everest tourism and climate changeEverest: tourism and climate change provide new challenges

By Ed Douglas, The Guardian

As the 60th anniversary of conquest looms, climbers and environmentalists fear new strains on the terrain and its people. Whether the Everest region can continue to cope with a booming tourism sector remains to be seen, according to mountain geographer and environmentalist Alton Byers. Director of science and exploration at the Mountain Institute in Washington DC, Byers is widely regarded as a leading expert on Everest’s environment, and looks at the future of the region in The Call of Everest, newly published by the National Geographic Society.

Has Everest been good for Nepal development?Has Everest been good for Nepal’s development?

By John Vidal, The Guardian

Once among the world’s poorest people, the Sherpas have benefited hugely from the growth of the mountaineering industry. Dawa Steven Sherpa is the new face of Nepal. Born in Khumjung, a village just 12 miles from Everest, he is in his 20s, speaks five languages, has a business degree from a British university, and is the director of a highly successful trekking and guiding company based in Kathmandu. He has climbed Everest twice. Everest and mountaineering have been the catalyst to enable three generations of his family to prosper. His father, Ang Tshering, used to climb with British mountaineer Chris Bonington and was one of the first pupils to study at the school Sir Edmund Hillary founded with the Himalayan Trust after the successful 1955 expedition. His grandfather, who portered for Hillary, barely had an education, eking a living from yak herding and spinning.

Douglas_Guardian_ForgetEverestBrawlRealStoryIsSherpasControlForget the Everest brawl: the real story is how Sherpas are taking control

By Ed Douglas, The Guardian

Last week’s clash did not come out of the blue. More than 60 years ago, Tenzing Norgay was campaigning for the rights of his people, who are now more confident and outspoken. It’s an irresistible contrast. On the one hand, modern mountaineering superstars with their blogs and sponsorship deals, scrapping with outraged Sherpas on the slopes of Everest. On the other, one of the defining images of the 20th century, the photograph of Tenzing Norgay standing on the summit of the world, a symbol of human courage and resourcefulness. The obvious conclusion – that in the 60 years since Everest was first climbed greed and ego have hollowed out this once noble enterprise – certainly worried Sir Edmund Hillary in his later years.

The mission to clean up Mount Everest, The Guardian_GoldenbergEnvironmentalists in Nepal are pressing the government to keep the Himalayas free from litter

By Susan Goldenberg, The Guardian

Nearly 60 years after Edmund Hillary conquered Everest, and 30 years after climbing turned commercial, the region is still struggling to deal with mass tourism. By the standards of the 70s, when the main climbing routes were littered with discarded tents and food packets, Everest is a lot cleaner, with just a smattering of plastic bottles and sweet wrappers on the rocky plateau that is base camp. But a Nepali environmental coalition is pressing the government in Kathmandu to adopt a new management plan to safeguard the Himalayas in the age of mass tourism – and to make amends for the environmental sins of the past. “Everybody talks about waste in the mountains but nobody talks about proper solutions,” says Phinjo Sherpa, director of Eco Himal. “Cleaning up Everest every once in a while does not help. The main thing is management, waste management.”