How Do You Go To The Bathroom Up There??
That’s the perennial question after I give slideshows and presentations about Everest. The question is almost always followed by giggles in the audience, whether it be elementary school children or adults at a conference. There’s something about, well, poop, that makes us all uncomfortable, that we don’t want to talk about or even acknowledge. But, it’s also one of the few things we all share in common – everybody poops!
What’s more interesting than how one poops on Everest is what happens to all that poop afterward? Here at Everest Basecamp, there’s likely 1000 people living on the lateral morraine of the Khumbu Glacier – climbers, cooks, porters, basecamp managers, climbing Sherpa, and doctors – for 70+ days. They hail from Nepal, USA, Germany, Bangladesh, India, New Zealand, England, and elsewhere, and – you guessed it – they all poop. All 1,000 of them, at least once a day, for 70 days and that’s just Basecamp. 1 in 3 people world-wide do not have access to a safe, reliable and hygienic place to go poop. It doesn’t take much expertise in sanitation and disease control to understand that this poses quite a problem.
For Basecamp, enter the SPCC – the Sagarmatha (Everest) Pollution Control Committee – and their cabal of poop porters.
Each expedition is required to have a toilet tent, and all solid waste is deposited in blue barrels, assuming aim is good. Each morning, the poop porters work their way through Basecamp, empty blue barrels on their backs in dokos (wicker baskets carried by tumpline). If an expedition has a full barrel, the poop porters will exchange an empty for a full, and carry the full barrel some 10 kilometers back down the Khumbu Glacier to a deposit site below Gorak Shep. There, the waste is put into a giant pit in a sandy area outsite the lateral morraine – in effect, a giant leeching field for all of Basecamp.
And, what do the porters get paid for their efforts? Seventy rupees per kilogram. That works out to about $20 per barrel of feces, carried down the Khumbu Glacier to a safe burial place, and ensuring cleaner, safer water supply for the many villages downstream. And, it provides a solid income for the porters here in a country where the average annual income is still in the $250 range…Sanitation as a Business, working well here at Basecamp.
So, there you have it – the awkward question and subject addressed, talked about, and understood. My hat is off to the SPCC for dealing with something most would prefer to ignore, and even more I salute the poop porters for their work – difficult, but essential.
As you all know, we’re hoping to raise $29,035 by June 7, 2012, all of which will go directly to Water For People and their efforts, among many others, to foster Sanitation as a Business around the world. And, for a mere $21 – just $1 more than the cost to haul a barrel of waste out of Basecamp – you can not only make a big difference with your tax-deductible donation, but also be entered to win some very cool prizes from our partners, Eddie Bauer, Eco Vessel, Live Worldy and Piggyback Rider.
So, if you have a moment and some spare change, please make a donation today, be entered to win great prizes, and, most importantly, help Water For People reach Everyone, Forever.