Nonprofit leader intends to pick up mountains of trash near Everest | ParkRecord.com

Nonprofit leader intends to pick up mountains of trash near Everest

Hikers trek up to Mount Everest's base camp. Luke Hanley, a former Park City resident and founder of Padma Organization, is hoping to organize a group of Parkites to hike to base camp and pick up trash along the way.
Courtesy of Tim Picco

Mount Everest. The peak is synonymous with achievement, determination and beauty. But, the trail and base camp that allow climbers access to the peak are also gaining a reputation as an expansive, unofficial trash dump.

A former Park City resident is taking it upon himself to do something about it, and he is searching for a crew from Park City to join him on the journey.

Luke Hanley, founder and programs director of the nonprofit Padma Organization, is planning a service trip to Nepal to hike to the Everest base camp and pick up trash along the way. He is partnering with a Kathmandu-based mountain guiding organization called Mosaic Adventure for the trip, which Hanley hopes to do the first week of May. Given Parkites’ combined love of the outdoors and service, he said it would be good to have a team of residents from the area accompany him.

The trip is expected to last two and a half weeks. Volunteers will spend a couple days in Kathmandu, then head to the mountainous region, Hanley said. They will then undergo the 80-mile round-trip to base camp.

Hanley said as Mount Everest’s popularity has grown, so have the trash piles on the hike, particularly at base camp.

“Over the last two decades, the abundance of international trekkers to the Everest region has left a massive problem with non-biodegradable garbage that just isn’t being cleaned up,” he said.

Hanley said some groups have already worked on cleaning up base camp, but few people have focused on the hike leading up to the cirque. He wanted to target the areas that are not getting cleaned up.

Mosaic Adventure will work with local teahouses and guesthouses on the route so volunteers can store the plastic waste along the way. They will use sanitary gloves and nylon reusable bags to collect the trash while hiking for five to eight hours a day. Then, they will leave the trash at the teahouses at the end of every day. Hanley said the number of miles hiked each day will range from five to 20, depending on elevation.

He is not sure how much trash they will be able to collect, but he said the goal is to do “as much as we can.”

People with medical experience will hike with the group to assist with any injuries or health problems, he said. When the group turns around, Sherpa porters will help them carry the trash down and take it to a recycling center.

“We still get to go up to base camp and see big mountains, but there is a definite necessary service element part of it,” he said.

Hanley said he hopes to bring a group of people who are part of one organization, because he believes that will help with the cohesion and camaraderie necessary to take on the challenge.

The trip started coming together at the end of December, after Hanley started talking to Mosaic Adventure. He has done service trips in Nepal for a large part of his life. In fact, his first taste of international service came in 2005, when he moved to Nepal. It was toward the end of the Nepalese Civil War, and Hanley said he saw hordes of rural families move into the Kathmandu valley to flee violence in their hometowns. When they arrived in the city, they lived on the streets without basic human needs.

Hanley returned to Park City to raise money to start a children’s home for kids in Nepal. After getting the children’s home off the ground, he started Padma Organization, which does service projects for underserved populations in South and Southeast Asia. He has since moved out of Park City, but he continues to stay involved in the community. For the past two years, he has partnered with a teacher from Park City High School to take students on humanitarian trips in Nepal and Bali.

The nonprofit has done projects such as replanting trees in the Everest forest region after it was over logged, replanting trees in Borneo’s rainforest and installing an underground water system in Eastern Tibet. Last year, Park City students participated in a service trip in Bali to build artificial reefs. Hanley said he saw how much plastic garbage was on the coastline in Bali, and he started turning his attention to places where he could pick up trash and restore the land.

He said seeing trash in the famous mountains of the country that he loves so much made him want to get a clean-up trip arranged as soon as possible.

“It could be actual perfection, but because of the lack of regulation and lack of focus on keeping it clean and pristine, it is becoming an ecological disaster zone,” he said.

He plans to do another trip in the fall, and continue to host them until the trail is all cleaned up. Those interested in participating in the trip can contact Hanley at info@padmaorganization.com or call the office at 435-319-8090.