KATMANDU, Nepal -- A team of mountaineers led by a veteran Sherpa guide flew Wednesday to Mount Everest on an expedition to clear away tons of trash left on the world's highest peak.
Since Everest was first conquered in 1953, thousands of people have climbed it, leaving behind the empty oxygen bottles, ropes, tents and other garbage that made their journey possible.
Nepal has since required climbers to bring down everything they take up the mountain or lose their deposit, but debris from past climbs still litters the slopes.
The team that left Katmandu on Wednesday – led by Apa, a Sherpa who has climbed Everest a record 20 times – plans to bring down 11,000 pounds (5,000 kilograms) of garbage during the spring climbing season.
"I want to do this for my country, my people and for Everest," said Apa, who uses only one name.
The team hopes to clear 8,800 pounds (4,000 kilograms) of garbage from the lower part of the mountain and another 2,200 pounds (1,000 kilograms) from near the 29,035-foot (8,850-meter) summit.
Expedition members, porters and guides of other expeditions will carry the garbage down the mountain, receiving 100 rupees ($1.40) for every kilogram they haul out.
Ang Tshering, organizer of the Eco Everest Expedition, said this is the fourth year a cleaning expedition has been held.
Apa first climbed Everest in 1989 and has repeated the feat almost annually. He has campaigned about the degradation he has seen on the Himalayan peaks due to global warming and other issues.
He said when he first began climbing Everest, the trail to the summit was covered with ice and snow. Now, it is dotted with bare rocks. The melting ice has also exposed deep crevasses, making expeditions more dangerous.
Apa grew up in the foothills of Everest and began carrying equipment and supplies for trekkers and mountaineers at age 12. He moved to the United States in 2006 and lives in the Salt Lake City suburb of Draper.