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Expert climber takes action after worrisome trend threatens climbing paths on iconic mountain: 'We have destroyed its beauty with our own hands'

"If more people go to climb there will be more waste."

"If more people go to climb there will be more waste."

Photo Credit: Instagram

Pakistani climber Sajid Ali Sadpara has made history by scaling some of Earth's tallest peaks, but perhaps his greatest accomplishment is his cleanup effort on K2 in the summer of 2023.

Last July, Sadpara and his team of four spent a month picking up ropes, tents, and depleted oxygen canisters abandoned by other climbers on the second-highest mountain in the world. They accrued as much as 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of litter in a week, per the Agence France-Presse

"K2 is no longer as beautiful as it once used to be," Abbas Sadpara, an unrelated veteran mountaineer, told AFP at K2 Basecamp. "We have destroyed its beauty with our own hands."

The mountain, which got its name from British surveyors in 1856 who identified it as the second peak of the Karakoram range, formed 50 million years ago in what is now the Gilgit-Baltistan region of northeastern Pakistan.

It can sustain winds up to 200 kilometers per hour (124 mph) and temperatures as low as minus-60 degrees Celsius (minus-76 Fahrenheit), making trash collection extremely difficult.

Sadpara's cleanup efforts served to preserve K2's natural beauty and also honor his late father, Ali Sadpara, who died while ascending the mountain in 2021 with his son and two other climbers. 

Deserted equipment has become a problem following the explosion in popularity of mountain tourism, according to Central Karakoram National Park ecologist Yasir Abbas, who ran a campaign that removed 1,600 kilograms of litter from K2 in 2022.

"Commercial companies, they take in more equipment," he told AFP. "If more people go to climb, there will be more waste."

Conditions are no different on Mount Everest, as the world's tallest mountain has also seen a rise in gear and garbage dumped by mountaineers. 

Sadpara acknowledged the challenge of climbing K2 and that, for many hikers, picking up after themselves becomes secondary to simply surviving. However, he added that part of mountain climbing's allure is the "mental peace" it brings and that the sight of refuse can alter the experience.

"I'm doing it from my heart," Sajid Sadpara said of his actions. "This is our mountain. We are the custodians."

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