“The whole of 2020, there has been no income in the Khumbu because there have been no tourists,” said Dawa, “agriculture was the only other source of income, but the potato crop was destroyed by an unusually wet monsoon. There is nothing to fall back on.”
The Khumbu region was opened to trekking in October, and was immediately closed off again after a Covid-19 outbreak. Trekkers are now allowed, but need mandatory PCR negative test results to fly to Lukla.
The Everest region used to get about 60,000 hikers and climbers a year, and this year the trails and mountains have had a respite. Local communities have used the time to repair hiking routes, clean up trash on the trails, and upgrade lodges for a tourism revival next year.
Dawa Steven Sherpa has also been involved in bringing down 23 tons of garbage from Mt Everest in the past 13 years, and says that whole region can now return to a “better normal”.
“The media like to call Mt Everest the highest garbage dump in the world, but it is now actually the cleanest mountain in Nepal. ‘Everest cleaned up’ is not an attractive news headline,” Dawa said. “I was at Everest Base Camp this month and there is absolutely no garbage left to pick.”