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Are Mountain Expeditions a Sustainable Practice?

Mountain expeditions have long been a way for adventurers to connect with nature, test their limits, set records, and experience the beauty of the world’s highest and most remote peaks. However, the sustainability of these practices is a growing concern. 

Unfortunately, these high mountains are threatened by climate change and overuse. There are many articles and news surrounding the topic of waste management on expeditions like on Mount Everest. Many describe the huge quantity of trash that was left behind in the mountains and what is still left behind. 

Is it Possible to Climb Mount Everest in a Sustainable Way?

Climbing Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, poses unique challenges for sustainability. However, with proper practices, it is possible to minimize the footprint of the expedition and develop sustainable expeditions.

Furtenbach Adventures, an expedition operator based in Austria (Europe) has been in the market for 20 years. Mainly offering expeditions and mountaineering activities, on the highest mountains in the world and in breathtaking places. 

They want to spread awareness on what can be done to protect the mountains that we explore, because climate change is a real threat and is something that needs to be taken into consideration.

Everest North Side

So, is it possible to climb Mt. Everest in a sustainable way? 

According to Furtenbach Adventures: 

“Yes, with the right practices in place, it is possible to reduce the environmental impact, support sustainability and be the leading operator in terms of development.” 

First of all, there are environmental laws in Nepal with the aim of protecting the ecosystem. Furtenbach has being following the environmental regulations long before these where officially implemented. An example could be the so called “poo-bags”. Recent Nepalese regulations force climbers to bring poo-bags with them, which are essentially like plastic bags to collect human waste.

These bags contain a substance that turns the waste into a solid gel and the odor is minimized. The climbers waste must be brought down the mountain and will be collected and weighted before disposal. People not following regulations are consequentially fined. 

Furtenbach Adventures has been using them for quite a while now, long before it was included in the new regulations by Nepal. And other governments around the world have been implementing the same laws for other popular expedition summits, like Aconcagua or Mount Vinson. For example, The authorities in Mendoza, without a doubt, are strict when it comes to waste management.

In fact, to reach Aconcagua, the climbers are also provided with poo-bags, moreover the government set fines to who pollutes water, damages plants or nature, and throw their trash in places where it is not supposed to be. Even on Mount Vinson, expedition operators like Furtenbach Adventures must follow strict guidelines to respect the environment, that include also rules on food waste and grey water. 

From a first glance the idea of carrying your own waste might sound disgusting, but it is a fundamental action that climbers need to take to keep the natural and normal biodiversity, essential to keep the water uncontaminated and prevent pollution.

Through regulations and other responsible actions, it is possible to leave the mountain as you found it. Furtenbach Adventures is proud to say that during expedition they leave no trace behind on the mountain, moreover they try to also eliminate those traces that were left in the past, by collecting more waste than produced.

Not much has been done in the past to keep the mountains clean and unfortunately the result of this lack of responsibility can be seen. To make expeditions more sustainable Furtenbach Adventures started using sustainable resources like solar energy: At Mount Everest Base Camp they implemented a large photovoltaic farm, to create 100% solar energy. They were the first ones to do it.

Another way how Furtenbach Adventures is minimizing the footprint is offering Flash™ expeditions. 

Flash™ expeditions by Furtenbach Adventures focus on climbing mountains in a shorter time than the Classic expeditions. During which climbers have to do the so-called rotations to get acclimatized. While thanks to an innovative system, climbers can acclimatize at home, spending less time on the mountain. This leads to less risk and also less waste and pollution in the destination.

On top of that, CO2 emissions caused by flights, accommodation and local transport will be compensated by Furtenbach Adventures. In addition to all the success and records, the Everest 2022 expedition is also the first CO2 negative expedition in history. With this compensation, Furtenbach Adventures support Nepalese farming families in the construction of biogas plants.


Ensuring sustainability in expeditions, requires meticulous planning and responsible practices. From waste management to eco-friendly gear, climbers and expedition operators are making strides to minimize their environmental impact.

However, while sustainable practices are essential, they also contribute to the overall expenses involved in such an ambitious adventure. Transitioning from the environmental considerations, let’s now delve into the financial aspects of climbing Mount Everest and explore the costs associated with this extraordinary journey.

Climber on Everest

Understanding the Costs of Climbing Mount Everest 

Sustainability doesn’t only mean caring about the environment, but it also means looking at the socially and economically part, which means taking into consideration the need of present customers without compromising the needs of the future ones. 

Climbing Mount Everest involves extensive preparation, high-quality equipment, experienced guides and Sherpas as well as strict safety measures, all of which contribute to the overall cost.

  • Climbing permits are a significant expense, required by both China and Nepal, and fund nature conservation and tourism initiatives. Additionally, climbers must pay fees for fixed ropes, waste disposal, national park entry, and other governmental charges.
  • Logistics and support are crucial, covering the transport of gear, food, and essentials to base camps, the setup and maintenance of camps, and ensuring comfortable accommodations and nutritious meals for climbers.
  • Safety and equipment costs are high due to the need for specialized gear, medical supplies, and emergency services, including supplemental oxygen, which is essential for survival at high altitudes.
  • Supplemental oxygen logistics, including reliable supplies and spare tanks at higher camps, are a major expense and critical for the success and safety of the climb.
  • Expert guidance from experienced Western guides and Sherpas is invaluable, offering support, route finding, and high-altitude health management, significantly contributing to the expedition’s cost.
  • Fair wages, insurance, and equipment for all staff, especially Sherpas, are prioritized to ensure ethical and responsible practices, further increasing the overall cost.

This ethical stance not only contributes to the expedition’s cost but also underlines Furtenbach Adventures commitment to responsible and sustainable climbing practices. They are pioneers in conducting environmentally friendly Everest expeditions, striving to minimize their carbon footprint and preserve the pristine beauty of the Himalayas for future generations.

We need to remember that there will always be a conflict between the economic side and the environmental side. In first instance a solution to the environmental problem could be to close all the paths and trails, preventing anyone to climb the mountain.

On the other side this could cause a problem from the economic and social side, where locals who work with this tourism would lose their jobs and be forced to physically move to another. Due to that, government and laws try to find a balance in being sustainable between the economic, social and environmental aspects. 

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