KATHMANDU, Nepal - Twenty Nepali climbers perished at the peak of Mount Everest this week after removing several decades of accumulated debris from the upper mountain in a record-breaking high altitude clean-up campaign, authorities said Tuesday.
No one had ever dared to tidy up the mountainside above 8,000 meters (26,246 feet), an area called the "death zone" for its near lack of oxygen coupled with treacherous terrain.
Nevertheless, a team of 20 fastidious sherpas, carrying empty rucksacks and hefty bags, risked the zone's rarefied air and icy temperatures to retrieve trash and recyclables, depleted oxygen tanks, torn tents, old ropes, and other rubbish left behind by various bastards who previously visited Everest's peak - including the frozen cadavers of several bastards who had failed.
"The garbage was buried under snow in the past. But now it has come out on the surface because of the melting of snow due to global warming," the expedition's leader noted just hours before his untimely demise.
"The rubbish is creating problems for climbers ... Some items of garbage are from Hillary's time."
Everest has been called the world's highest garbage dump because climbers often leave their gear and trash behind as they descend, having found they have bitten off more than they can chew.
Since New Zealand's Sir Edmund Hillary and Nepal's Tenzing Norgay Sherpa first reached Everest's peak in 1953, Nepal has become a popular tourist destination; more than 4,000 litterbugs have since left their personal effects strewn about the mountainside, so the sherpa team had collected at least 2,000 kg of garbage and human popsicles on their way to the summit.
Collecting debris on the ascent proved to be a tragic error - upon reaching the peak, the sherpas collapsed in an exhausted pile amidst their heaps of collected rubbish, soon freezing solid before being covered with fresh snow, adding approximately 1 meter to Everest's overall height.
Nearly half the GDP of Nepal is derived from the $20 fee charged to climb Everest, and since dozens of people attempt the climb each year, news of this tragedy is expected to deal a heavy blow to the impoverished country.