There’s good news and bad news at Denali, North America’s tallest mountain. The bad news is that the 66 tons of frozen feces left by climbers on the Alaska summit is expected to start melting out of the glacier sometime in the coming decades and potentially as soon as this summer, a process that’s speeding up in part due to global warming.
The tallest mountain of North America at Denali hides a good news & bad one.
Good news is for first time, guide companies decided to start packing human waste out – leading 1,200 climbers attempt summit annually – after National Park Service issued policy states that waste below 14,000 feet carried off mountain.
“Climbers and particularly guide services are really embracing the new policy and are even exceeding it. It has become kind of an informal badge of merit to carry off all your waste”
Denali is a fantastic five hours Northern Anchorage, Alaska at 20,300 feet visible from city on clear days.
Denali is one of Seven Summits on each of seven continents.
The problem of poop is real. Climbers scale Denali known as Mount McKinley generate 2 metric tons of poops/annually with an average human “deposit” weighs 1/2 pound besides average length of stay of climber on mountain is 18 days that is researcher configured out 66 tons over course of past century.
Poops was left on Kahiltna glacier in snow pits or thrown into deep crevasses before being ground up in ice. Buried feces resurface downstream on surface of glacier eventually before being melt.
Research area covered by ice within Alaskan parks diminished by 8% in past 50 years.
“We have lost more glacier cover in the Alaskan national parks than there is area in the whole state of Rhode Island. One of the consequences of warming temperatures is that the surface of the glacier is melting more quickly”
Waste deposited at lowest climbing camp on mountain start reappearing even this climbing season that begins in April.
“That could be as much as two to three centuries. That could be as much as two to three centuries”
Denali deal with excrement as melting glaciers expose bodies of climbers on Mount Everest who had been buried in ice & snow.
Most climbers die on mountain are carried to be buried off as Denali’s elevations are low.
40-some-year trip doesn’t make human waste less gross through glacier. Research of Loso suggests bacteria & bugs survive after being dropped in a crevasse or buried in snow. Fecal coliform bacteria are found in tests of rivers were glacier melts, below standard for recreational rivers & lakes.
“The waste will emerge at the surface not very different from when it was buried. It will be smashed and have been frozen and be really wet. It will be biologically active, so the E. coli that was in the waste when it was buried will be alive and well. We expect it to still smell bad and look bad”
In 2001, National Parks Service launched a pilot program in associate with American Alpine Club climbing group in order to test lightweight portable toilets called cans of Clean Mountain that hold 1.8 gallons of solid waste lined with a biodegradable bag.
“If you urinate in the CMC, it’s going to freeze and increase the weight”
Last year, climbers were obligated to pack excrement out below 14,000 feet. But, its allowed to throw frozen bags into one designated area in a deep ice crevasse above 14,000 feet.
Six seven guide companies have committed to packing all waste out voluntarily which means carrying cans of excrement all way to summit and back.
“You’re already carrying 100 pounds and then you’re adding another 20 pounds of feces. But it’s the right thing to do. There’s a pretty strong ‘Leave no trace’ ethic among U.S. climbing and outdoors folks. It’s kind of part of the deal. We say about 12 uses is a full can. It weighs somewhere between 10 and 15 pounds when full. It might not be an ‘everyday’ thing. This is something we will all be getting used to. But it’s the best thing for the mountain. It’s just what we’re going to have to do”