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Saturday , Apr 06, 2002      

Bodies to be cleared Japanese climber leading team to clean up Mount Everest

An ace Japanese climber and his team headed for Mount Everest on Friday to clean up the world’s highest mountain and dig up bodies buried under ice.

Ken Noguchi’s team aims to bring down at least 1,500 kilograms of oxygen bottles, tents, food cans, ropes and other trash left on the mountain by expeditions at the South Col, the last camp before the summit. Noguchi, 28, of Tokyo, said his team – three Japanese, three South Koreans, two Georgians and 20 Nepalese Sherpa guides – would also try to clear dead bodies frozen under the ice.

Since adventurers began trying to climb Everest in the early 1900s, nearly 180 people have died on its slopes.

“It is too difficult to carry down bodies from that altitude but we will try to push them into crevasses,” Noguchi said.

The South Col, located 8,000 metres above sea level, is the last flat ground before the steep slopes leading to the summit at 8,850 metres. Climbers sometimes stay at the South Col for days while waiting for a break in the weather.

The area has gained the reputation of being the world’s highest garbage dump despite Nepalese rules requiring climbers to take all their trash back down with them.

Because of exhaustion and the lack of oxygen, most climbers leave their gear and trash behind in order to descend to the base camp at 5,300 metres with as light a load as possible.

The high altitude and oxygen deficiency also make it hard to carry down bodies, which are left behind covered by snow and ice.

Noguchi, who has scaled the highest mountains on every continent, has made two previous cleanup expeditions to Everest’s northern side in Tibet, bringing down 1,500 kilograms of trash in 2000 and 1,600 kilograms in 2001.

“I will take back about 70 per cent of the garbage to Japan and (South) Korea and hold exhibitions to make people aware of the problem,” Noguchi said.

He plans another cleanup expedition next year. © The Canadian Press, 2002