Edinburgh, June 24 : If reports are to be believed, Mount Everest, the highest peak on the planet, is becoming a 'junkyard', with 600 tonnes of frozen garbage like oxygen cylinders, tinned food, abandoned tents, plastic bags of human waste, ladders, ropes, jackets, bloody syringes and vials of unlabelled medication.
According to a report in the Scotsman, the trail of debris runs from the base camp in Tibet at 16,995 ft and continues all the way to the summit at 29,035 ft.
The collective weight of the 'junk' is estimated at 600 tonnes and its most emotional markers are the frozen corpses of almost 200 climbers, rigid on rocky perches or lying stiff in caves.
According to the China Daily newspaper, last year, more than 40,000 people visited the mountain from the Chinese side, which is located in Tibet.
Although that was less than 10 per cent of those who went to the mountain on the Nepal side in 2000, the paper said environmentalists estimate they could have left behind as much as 120 tons of rubbish or an average of 6.5 pounds (3kg) per tourist.
This massive pile up of garbage is a result of the number of climbers on Everest's slopes shooting up in the past 20 years.
But, over the years, a number of small clean-up campaigns have attempted to tackle the growing clutter.
In 2003, a Japanese mountaineer, Ken Noguchi, at 25 the youngest person to reach the summit, gathered up more than 8 tonnes of rubbish, including 423 empty oxygen canisters, which he put on display in Tokyo to highlight the problem.
In 2006, the International Clean Everest Expedition returned with 1.3 tonnes of rubbish, and that same year, Rob the Rubbish, a retired social worker from Llanwrtyd in Wales, who acquired his moniker by cleaning up the slopes of the Lake District, also travelled to Tibet to lend a hand.
Now, the Chinese government has announced plans for a massive clean-up operation, which could lead to strict limits on visitors to the area and the number of climbers who each year attempt to reach the summit.
Restricting access to Everest will be a simple matter of limiting permission.
Before embarking, each expedition must obtain a permit that costs around 50,000 pounds for each team of seven climbers.
China has already enacted some restrictions, including forbidding vehicles from driving directly to the base camp.
That was necessary to preserve the fragile Himalayan environment and melting Rongbuk glacier at the base of Everest, which has retreated 490 ft (150m) in the past decade.