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Despite the closing of 2020’s Spring climbing season due to Covid-19, Nepali activist and mountaineer Dawa Steven Sherpa, with the Bally Peak Outlook Foundation’s support, led a 47-day expedition to clean the base camps of Cho Oyu, Everest, Lhotse and Makalu, removing 2.2 tons of waste.

March 2021 - Continuing Bally’s tradition of sponsoring alpine expeditions that dates back to 1930, along with the Bally Peak Outlook Foundation’s mission to safeguard the world’s mountain environments, Bally returned to the Himalayas in Fall 2020. Fulfilling the first half of its “8 X 8000 M” pledge to clean up the base camps of Nepal’s eight 8,000-meter mountains, the preservation project will be phased out over a two-year period.

Following a delay due to pandemic-related restrictions closing the Spring climbing season, Dawa Steven Sherpa, who also led Bally Peak Outlook’s successful 2019 initiative to clean Everest from base camp to the peak, was able to commence Phase 1 of “8 X 8000M” from 9 September - 23 October, embarking on a 47-day expedition.

The unprecedented events brought upon by Covid-19 have had consequential effects on Nepal, whose tourism industry supports over 1 million jobs and comprises 7.9% of its GDP. In 2019, the country hosted nearly 1.2 million international arrivals, of which Everest climbers spent approximately US$ 300 million alone. The Bally Peak Outlook Foundation project was able to provide critical income for local communities in the Himalayan region, employing professional climbers, cleaners, sorters, packers, porters, as well as dedicated support teams on the ground at each base camp who were all native to the mountain region.

Traveling from West to East, Dawa’s expedition team successfully removed 2.2 tons of waste from the four base camps of Cho Oyu, Everest, Lhotse, and Makalu, climbing two mountains, Baruntse (7,129m) and Mera Peak (6,540m), and crossing four alpine glaciated passes, Chola Pass (5,440m), Amphulabsa Pass (5,870m), West Col (6,140m) and Sherpani Col (6,147m), since official trails were closed due to Covid-19. Adhering to strict safety and protocol measures, PCR tests were initially facilitated at Kathmandu, and alternate, remote routes were taken to prevent any possibility of inter-village transmission.

Due to the high altitude and demanding terrain, approximately half of the expedition team was composed of ethnic Sherpa, whose unique genetic pathways allow them to live and work in extreme mountain environments. To highlight the Sherpa voices of the high Himalayas, Bally presents a five-part series of short documentary films dedicated to Phase 1 of “8 X 8000M” and its four majestic mountain peaks, narrated by the people who are an intrinsic part of its everyday life.

Dawa, who is a passionate environmental activist and tourism entrepreneur, introduces Everest in the first episode, having led expeditions that have removed over 20,000kg of garbage since 2008. The second film hears from Jamling Tenzing Norgay, renowned climber and son of Tenzing Norgay, who first summited Everest in 1953 with Sir Edmund Hillary, while wearing iconic Bally Reindeer boots. Norgay sheds light on Cho Oyu and the positive effects of sustainable tourism in the Himalayas.

The third episode features Yankila Sherpa, a trailblazing female entrepreneur from Olangchung Gola, a remote village of Eastern Nepal. She speaks to the spiritual relationship that Sherpa communities share with the mountains, including Makalu, as chief advisor of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.The fourth documentary follows expert climber Naga Dorjee Sherpa, who was born and raised in the Everest region’s Khumjung village. Featuring Lhotse, Naga shares his insights as one of the Himalayan community’s most prominent expedition Sirdars, or leaders, to the younger generation, including Dawa, who he has worked with since 2006.

The synopsis episode summarizes Phase 1 of the Bally Peak Outlook Foundation’s “8 X 8000M” expedition. Walking a distance of 452 kilometers with a total elevation gain of 11,500m, the team reached its highest point at Baruntse (7,129m) after starting from Khumjung (3,780m), its lowest altitude.

Phase 2 of the “8 X 8,000M” expedition will take place over the course of 2021, when teams, led by Dawa, will clean up the base camps of Kanchenjunga (8,586m), Dhaulagiri (8,167m), Manaslu (8,156m), Annapurna (8,091m), as well as Everest (8,848m) for a third time.

“After being locked down in quarantine, that feeling of being out in the mountains was incredible, but it was also a lot of hard work. We put in everything we had and weren’t going to accept a halfhearted effort. There were a lot of emotions attached to this expedition, and we were so tired by the end, but it was deeply fulfilling to return the mountains as they should be – pristine.” – Dawa Steven Sherpa, Leader, Eco Everest Expeditions and CEO, Asian Trekking

Why base camps?

  • According to the Himalayan Database, a record of all mountaineering expeditions in Nepal, over 10,500 expeditions have attempted to climb the country’s 8,000-meter peaks, including Everest, since 1905.

  • Basecampsareamongthemostinhabitedareasonthemountainsduringclimbingseason,andfrequentsitesforpollution.

  • Becauseoftheirremoteaccessandextremeconditions,includingthehighcostoftransportationandalackofresources, these heavily trafficked areas have rarely been cleaned, amassing decades of garbage.

What waste was collected?

  • Cho Oyu’s Base Camp on the Nepal side was cleaned for the first time, with debris such as old vodka bottles buried in the sand adjacent to Gokyo 6th lake. In total, 500kg of garbage dating back to the ‘80s was removed.

  • At Everest Base Camp, 780kg of waste was collected, including tin cans, old glass, broken tents, and wooden crates with medical syringes from an early ‘70s Italian expedition.

  • Lhotse Base Camp, which was also cleaned for the first time, had 300kg of waste.

  • Makalu posed the greatest difficulty, due to its six base camps being spread along the length of the Barun Glacier. Due to physical constraints, five were cleaned except for Makalu High Camp, totaling 604kg of garbage.

  • All collected waste was separated, classified and transferred to the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee. Batteries and other toxic material were sent to the Kathmandu Metropolitan Office for safe disposal.

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