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DEATH ZONE: Cleaning Mount Everest

Pay no attention to the faults of others, things done or left undone by others. Consider only what, by oneself, isa done or left undone. – Buddha

These inspiring words feature on the trailer for an astonishing Nepali documentary film about the intrepid teams that venture into Mount Everest’s so-called death zone to clean up after the explorers that take on the challenge of climbing up to the highest point on Earth. In time for Earth Day 2023, which takes place on Saturday 22 April, we take a look at the documentary’s contents and the vital messages it aims to convey.

Picture of Oxygen tanks left on Mount EverestMammoth task

Directed by Marina Martins and narrated by Patrick Stewart, DEATH ZONE: Cleaning Mount Everest follows a team of 20 sherpas, led by Namgyal Sherpa and Chakra Karki, as they take on the mammoth task and risk their lives in doing so. All work is done in the name of environmental justice and to clean up the sacred mountain that the lives of the people that live in its shadow revolve around.

The documentary follows the elite team as they ascend 26,000ft to enter the death zone, where litter and abandoned bodies from multiple expeditions still remain. Over 100,000 pounds of rubbish has been left on the icy slopes, with expedition teams considering it easier to leave unwanted items where they are, rather than bringing them back down to the ground. To date, however, more than two tons of rubbish has been removed by teams working in the dangerous zone.

Decades of climbing have certainly left a grim toll. More than 290 people have died attempting to climb Mount Everest in that time and more than 150 bodies remain on the slopes, consigned to an icy fate. The death zone is aptly named, as it is almost impossible for humans to survive in the harsh temperatures and thin, high-altitude air. There is only enough oxygen there for people to survive a couple of days in the zone.

Picture of rubbish on Mount EverestClimate change

The problem of what to do with abandoned litter and bodies is becoming more and more of a priority to solve. Climate change is causing the ice on Mount Everest to melt and the litter is only accelerating the process as the snow that covers it starts to disappear. Tents, empty oxygen bottles, remains of food, plastic bags and more are also causing problems for the eco-system. Recently, the Nepalese government introduced strict rules for visitors compelling them to keep the peak clean or face a hefty fine.

Meanwhile, frozen dead bodies are starting to thaw as temperatures rise. Left unchecked, this will result in the contamination of the water source that serves 1.3 billion people. Any bodies that are found on Mount Everest by the cleaning team must be wrapped in special bags and carried across the glaciers to base camp. From there, they are taken away by helicopter to be disposed of safely and respectfully elsewhere.

DEATH ZONE: Cleaning Mount Everest was released in 2018 and is one hour and 41 minutes long. It is available to watch via Amazon Prime:

More details about the 2023 Earth Day can be found here: https://



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