Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal, Created (1976)

Sagarmatha National Park in Nepal was created on July 19, 1976.  The centerpiece of the park is Mt. Sagarmatha, known to most of the world as Mt. Everest.

The Ama Dablam peak in Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal (photo by Faj2323)

            Sagarmatha National Park encompasses 443 square miles of the highest region in the world, the Great Himalayan Range.  The name Sagarmatha comes from the local language, meaning “sky-head.”  Indeed, the region has its head in the sky.  Mt. Everest itself is 29,021 feet above sea level.  Most of the park lies above the tree line, with only lichens and other ground-hugging vegetation covering large expanses, and permanent snow-cover at the highest levels.  Only 3% of the park area is forested.

            The park is also home to the Sherpa people, the Nepali Buddhists known for a culture built around the high peaks.  About 7700 Sherpas live within the park, and preserving their heritage and culture is considered an important element of park management.  The combination of the world’s highest ecosystem and its attendant human culture prompted UNESCO to designate the park a World Heritage Site in 1979.

View from Goyko Valley (photo by iciclesadventuretreks)

            The biodiversity of the park is minimal, but it provides habitat for many species uniquely adapted to high altitudes.  The endangered snow leopard, musk deer and red panda all call Sagarmatha home.  Within the park are headwaters of several major rivers and the Gokyo wetlands, a Ramsar designated wetland of international value.

            Visitation to the park continues to rise.  More than 45,000 tourists visit the park annually.  Most visitors are from the U.S., U.K. and Australia.  The biggest reason to visit is, of course, as Sir Edmund Hillary said, “because it is there.”  Climbing Mt. Everest attracts over 600 mountaineers annually.  More than 10,000 climbers and Sherpas have reached the top successfully since Hillary and Tenzing Norgay did so in 1953. A typical climb requires 39 days, allowing the body to adjust gradually to the decreasing oxygen.  In 2018, a record 670 people, climbers and their Sherpas, reached the summit.  Tragically, nearly 300 people have lost their lives pursuing the top of the mountain.

A lSherpa picks up trash on Mt. Everest (photo by Master Kungga Dundruk)

            All these people on the mountain for so long has earned Mt. Everest an unwelcome moniker—the world’s highest garbage dump.  Climbers leave a lot behind—tents, climbing gear, general trash, excrement—and getting it back down is strenuous and dangerous.  One climber remarked, “Everest is no longer a wilderness experience.  It’s a McDonald’s experience.”An annual ascent just to collect garbage began in 2007.  Participants have removed more than 20 tons of trash, but the problem continues.

            Taking pictures and leaving only footprints just doesn’t work on the world’s highest peak.

References:

Alanarnette.com.  Everest by the Numbers:  2019 Edition.  Available at:  https://www.alanarnette.com/blog/2017/12/17/everest-by-the-numbers-2018-edition/.  Accessed April 2, 2020.

Dundruk, Master Krugga.  2020.  Environmental Issues on Mt. Everest.  Tibet Travel, March 31, 2020.  Available at:  https://www.tibettravel.org/tibet-everest-base-camp-tour/everest-environmental-issues.html.  Accessed April 2, 2020.

Government of Nepal.  Sagarmatha National Park.  Available at:  http://www.sagarmathanationalpark.gov.np/. Accessed July 20, 2017.

Sehgal, Jasvinder.  2019.  Cleaning up Mount Everest – the world’s highest rubbish dump.  DW, 20.2.19.  Available at:  https://www.dw.com/en/cleaning-up-mount-everest-the-worlds-highest-rubbish-dump/a-47467115.  Accessed April 2, 2020.

UNESCO.  Sagarmatha National Park.  Available at:  http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/120.  Accessed July 20, 2017.

This Month in Conservation

September 1
Martha, the last Passenger Pigeon, Died (1914)
September 2
President Roosevelt Dedicated Great Smoky National Park (1940)
September 3
Wilderness Act passed (1964)
September 4
Fort Bragg, Home of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, Established (1918)
September 5
UNESCO Established First World Heritage Sites (1978)
September 6
Alcide d’Orbigny, French Naturalist, Born (1802)
September 7
Edward Birge, Father of Limnology, born (1851)
September 8
UN Millennium Declaration ratified (2000)
September 9
First “Bug” Found in Computer (1945)
September 10
Henry Hardtner, Father of Southern Forestry, Born (1870)
September 11
World Wildlife Fund Began Operations (1961)
September 12
Canyonlands National Park Established (1964)
September 13
Walter Reed born (1851)
September 14
Marc Reisner, Author of Cadillac Desert (1948)
September 15
Darwin reaches the Galapagos Islands (1835)
September 16
Ed Begley Jr., Environmental Advocate, born (1949)
September 17
Edgar Wayburn, Wilderness Advocate, Born (1906)
September 18
Grey Owl, Pioneering Conservationist in Canada, Born (1888)
September 19
Urmas Tartes, Estonian Nature Photographer, born (1963)
September 20
AAAS Founded (1848)
September 21
Assateague Island National Seashore Created (1965)
September 22
Peace Corps becomes law (1961)
September 23
Rose Selected as U.S. National Flower (1986)
September 24
President Kennedy Dedicated Pinchot Institute (1963)
September 25
Pope Francis Addressed the UN on the Environment (2015)
September 26
Johnny Appleseed Born (1774)
September 27
“Silent Spring” Published (1962)
September 28
National Public Lands Day
September 29
Steinhart Aquarium opens (1923)
September 30
Hoover Dam Dedicated (1935)
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