Every year, climbers and tourists litter Mt. Everest's slope with trash: discarded oxygen tanks, broken tents, empty cups and cans, even an abandoned helicopter. Most years the trash is simply covered up by snow, only to be seen again after its white cover melts.
But, last year, the Everest Summiteers' Association collected and delivered (via long-haired yaks and porters) 1.5 tons of trash to artists prepared to turn the garbage into 75 sculptures. The works of art, which were displayed in Kathmandu, included one of a yak and another of a Tibetan mandala showing Mt. Everest's place in the world.
The Mt. Everest 8848 Art Project I was organized by the Art Club of Nepal, a branch of Da Mind Tree. The 8848 refers to how many meters high the mountain is. The goal is to raise awareness about the littering on one of the world's most widely-recognized peaks.
"Everest is our crown jewel in the world," Kripa Rana Shahi, director of art group Da Mind Tree, told Reuters. "We should not take it for granted. The amount of trash there is damaging our pride."
The garbage was collected after the snow melted in 2011 and again in 2012 by sherpas. The Everest Summiteers' Association, a group made up of people who have summited the crest and want to give back to the community, then gave the trash to the art project. Sixteen local visual artists and four guest artists — all from Nepal — worked over the summer to turn that trash into art.
Climbers have to pay a $4,000 deposit with the Nepal government, which is only returned after they demonstrate they're returned with all the garbage they brought onto the mountain. But, it's difficult to track.
The artworks have been displayed in Kathmandu and now in Pulchowk, Nepal. There are no plans yet to bring the sculptures abroad. They are for sale, with prices ranging from $15 to $2,300. All money raised goes to the artists and to the summiteers' association.
This is not the first time an artist has made use of trash from Everest. In 2007, Jeff Clapp turned discarded oxygen tanks into bells and ornaments.