Four dead bodies have been discovered among 11,000 kilograms of food wrappers, plastic bottles and empty oxygen tanks on Mount Everest during a mass cleaning of the world’s tallest mountain.
Nepalese government workers made the grisly discoveries during the month-long operation after melting snow exposed the corpses, which had been buried underneath.
One of the deceased has been identified as a Russian mountaineer, and another was found to be a Nepalese climber.
The identities of the two other dead bodies remain a mystery.
It comes as search parties continue to look for missing Sydney climber Ruth McCance, who is feared dead along with seven international trekkers in the Himalayas.
The group was expected to return a week ago after attempting to conquer a previously unscaled peak of India’s Nanda Devi sanctuary.
Before the latest discovery of dead bodies, this season’s official death toll for climbers who died on Mount Everest was 11 – the highest death toll in four years.
It is unclear how many bodies are still on the mountain, and officials said they have no records.
It is believed congestion during the climb was a major factor behind the high number of deaths, with Kathmandu media reporting that on one day last week there were 250 climbers on the mountain at once.
This year, a record number of tourists – 318 people in 44 teams – were granted access to climb the notoriously dangerous mountain.
Each person is accompanied by a Sherpa (local guide).
Alarmingly, a major problem that comes with the overcrowding of tourists on Mount Everest is all the rubbish they leave behind.
Tourism Department official Danduraj Ghimire said cleaners spent weeks picking up enormous amounts of rubbish that included plastic wrappings, cans, bottles, batteries, faeces and kitchen waste.
Most of the rubbish was found at Camps 2 and 3, at which climbers can rest along the way from the base camp to the 8850-metre summit.
The clean-up began on April 14 and officially concluded on Wednesday.
While Nepalese officials said it was a success, they also said it was impossible to guess just how much rubbish remained on the mountain and that it was likely more rubbish still needed to be collected.
Officials also said recyclables, such as aluminium ladders and cans, may find a second life as pots and pans.
The Nepal Army’s PR director Bigyan Dev Pandey told Indian media that 5000kg of rubbish was brought down from the mountain on Tuesday alone.