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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Flying Machine to Sweep Everest Clean

Valentin Borzhukov wants to clean up Mount Everest. He has built a remote-controlled flying machine, and on March 30 he will take it to Nepal to begin the daunting task of cleaning some 16 tons of garbage from the world's highest mountain.


"There is an unbelievable amount of stuff up there," sighed Borzhukov, whose parasail will ferry 200 kilograms of rubbish at a time down to base camp. "And we're not just talking baked bean tins and tea bags. We're talking major junk."


At the last count it was estimated that 16 tons of debris are currently littering the mountainside. Sleeping bags, medicine, tents, climbing equipment, binoculars, personal diaries and oxygen canisters -- not to mention what must be a whole rainforest of frozen toilet paper -- have turned Everest into the world's tallest rubbish dump.


And cemetery. Since Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing celebrated their victory on the top in 1953, at least 485 other climbers have followed in their footsteps. But 115 of them didn't make it back, and energy of a teenager, has a lithe figure, bright eyes and an impish manner. He is well-suited to lead the team of 20 Russian mountaineers who will join more than 80 volunteers in Nepal as part of the International Ecological Project. By the end of the year, with the help of his flying dustbin and a group of Sherpas to gather the rubbish, Borzhukov hopes to have cleared up to five tons of litter in at least two expeditions.


The Nepalese government is spending some $150,000 on the program, according to the information officer at the Nepalese embassy in London.


Originally, Borzhukov's parasail had a different use. The idea was conceived after Borzhukov heard about the Chernobyl crisis.


"Using a remote-controlled device for lifting equipment in and out of the reactor station would have been a lot safer," he said.


Based on that idea, Borzhukov and his team of engineers designed a scale model of the airborne robot which is on view at the Evrika-95 exhibition at Moscow's VDNKh exhibition center. There, among silicon implant exhibits and the latest line in dental drilling accessories, teammate Aleksandr Fedotov demonstrated how the parasail worked.


It looked impressive. A large lunch box swung from a mass of tangled ropes, held together at the top by a bright yellow canopy. Even the woman in purple hairy slippers on guard at the door and a couple of technicians from next door were agog to see it in action. Fedotov produced the remote control from his pocket, and with the flick of a switch, the canopy lurched backwards, narrowly missing a tidy line of silicone breasts. It gathered speed and swooped forward, homing in on the hairy slippers.


A visit to Borzhukov's 14-floor apartment building -- he does not use the elevator -- shows a man whose entire life has been dedicated to mountains. Surrounded by medals and climbing equipment, he recalled his early passion for climbing. Seven times over he was mountaineering champion of the Soviet Union. He is also one of the few snyezhniye barsi, or snow leopards -- climbers who have scaled all four of the former Soviet Union's highest peaks.


But more than climbing, Borzhukov loves to fly. "Since the first time I looked at the sky and saw an airplane, I knew I had to fly," he said. As a student he and friends built makeshift hang gliders out of scrap metal. From hang-gliding Borzhukov graduated to parasailing. He recalls having to wait five days without food or water on Communism Peak for the right conditions to launch himself off the top.


The apartment he shares with his wife and three daughters could have done with a touch of the parasail to clear up the mountains of books, photographs and camping gear scattering the floor.


But his family does not seem to share his enthusiasm for the monumental cleanup project.


"They think I have lost my marbles," he grinned.