The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

Remember You`re a Womble

It is scary to thing that it is now almost 20 years since I went to Everest Base Camp to clean up the rubbish there. The trip was led by a remarkably motivated 18 year old called Paul Deegan. It was also his idea to go in the first place and he has since that time been one of the most consistantly sincere voices for responsible adventure tourism I`ve heard. Check out his website to see how he has gone from strength to strength including returning to Everest and reaching the summit in 2004.

Of course nowadays we all worry more about our impact on the planet. Trekking in the Himalaya these days is very culturally and environmentally aware. The market as well as the local governments demand it. But when we went in 1988 we were, I think, the first group to undertake such an environmental expedition anywhere on the planet. I remember people not quite understanding the point or even asking me how much I was getting paid to go wombling on Everest I can still recall the pitying looks they gave me when I said it was actually costing me money.

Our expedition didn`t, in truth, make much of an impact on the mess at Base Camp. Back then we didn`t really know what to do with the rubbish we found and burnt what would burn and threw what wouldn`t down crevasses where we hoped it would be ground into dust by the ice. Not ideal solutions of course and by today`s standards probably not that environmentally sound but every expedition that has tried to emulate us since has built on that experience and Everest, as well as other trekking areas around the World, are much cleaner places now than 20 years ago. I think Paul deserves most of the credit for that so here is my contribution to his fame.

Talking of contributions I found an article about Jeff Clapp and Wendy Rawson in the Japan Times the other day. They have found an interesting thing to do with the old oxygen cylinders from Everest climbing expeditions. If you can`t go and pick up the trash yourself purchasing one of their interesting recycled objects will help clean up the mountain. Have a look.

Damon

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