With spring here, climbers are planning their trips to crags, mountains, backcountry spots and big walls. And while the style of climbing will change from spot to spot, one thing stays the same: climbers poop. Call it what you want, feces, human waste, crap, but it’s all the same, and it needs to be dealt with responsibly.
Whether you’re hanging off a big wall, crossing a glacier or chilling at a crag, you’re going to have to poop. When taking a number two, it’s important to remember to do so in a way that won’t threaten access, be near drinking water or other users of the area. How you handle things will depend on where you are.
If you’re climbing a big wall, you have to poop somewhere and poop somewhere you will. That place will be into a bag, which will end up in a poop tube. A poop tube is a section of PVC pipe, about 25 centimetres long and 10 centimetres wide, with a cap on one end and a plug on the other.
After you poop into a bag, you place the bag into the tube and add some kitty litter to decrease the odour. If you use a bag system (see below), then you can dispose of the waste in conventional garbage. If you just use a paper bag, you’ll need to dispose the tube contents in a vault toilet. Many big wall climbing areas require climbers to use poop tubes, such as Zion and Yosemite.
There are a number of easy-to-use bag systems on the market, from GO Anywhere and Biffy Bag to Restop. The whole point of a bag system is to pack out your waste. Don’t “go” in the bag, but on the ground and then poop-and-scoop it into the bag. Bags are often the most recommended form of waste disposal, as they seal odour and can be disposed in any trash bag.
Simply put, this is just a hole in the ground. But there are some things to know about catholes. Dig your hole about 50 metres from any trail, water, camp or climbing area. Dig a hole about half-a-foot to a foot deep.
Once you’re done, fill the hole and cover it with natural material like leaves and pine cones. Use toilet paper sparingly and if you can handle it, use stones, vegetation or snow when you can. Don’t dig catholes in canyons or near running rivers. Also, places like deserts or in the high altitude where the ground will be too frozen or rocky.
Three Ways to Poop in a Cathole
The Squat: This is the original stance. And pretty self-explanatory. Keep your butt away from the backs of your feet and your hands on your knees for support.
The Seated Hang: Sit on a log or a boulder with your butt hanging off the edge and your arms holding you in place. This is as close as you’ll get to the comfort of a toilet.
The Tree Hug: Bring your feet as close to the base of a tree trunk and wrap your arms around the tree. Bend your knees and lean back (so your butt isn’t over your heels) while hanging on to the tree trunk for support.
There are a number of reasons why you don’t want to hold it in. Watch below as top climber Jason Kruk experiences what can happen when you get your knee stuck in a climb, and you need to poop. Spoiler: you poop.