Poo is the inevitable waste that must be dealt with on a big wall.
On my first trip up the big stone of El Cap, I heard laughter from above moments before seeing two paper bags rocket past me on their speedy decent into the talus below. This team’s method of “toss and forget it” is one ugly, nasty and inappropriate method of dealing with waste.
Over the years I’ve dabbled with many ways of dealing with poo on the wall and have settled on the following method as my preferred way of keeping things civilized.
At home, prepare homemade wag bags by putting about a cup of kitty litter in a paper bag, preferably bags larger than the traditional lunch sack size. Fold and put in a gallon Ziploc bag, (heavy duty with an easy zip system is best). You can also buy wag bags at a local outdoor store, but I usually make my own to save money compared to the $3-4 cost of commercially available bags.
Designate a stuff sack to hold your wag bags and fill a one gallon Ziploc with accessories such as toilet paper, baby wipes, and antibacterial hand wash.
On the wall, when the time has come, hopefully your partner can give you some much-appreciated privacy by jugging a previously fixed pitch, traversing on a ledge system or finding as much removed space as possible in the vertical world.
Rip or fold down the sides of the paper bag and deposit your load. Close and carefully secure in plastic Ziploc bag.
Take an empty water bottle and cut a slit in the bottle lengthwise and insert waste bag. A 2-liter bottle can usually fit two loads, ideal for a 2 person wall team. A 3-liter bottle leaves ample room, particularly for the manliest of waste loads.
Why not a PVC poop tube? In my experience, whatever you put your load in is going to smell like it forever. And I mean forever! I’ve used all manner of poop tubes and I could never get the smell to go away. Upon someone’s suggestion, I once used a dry bag and I washed and washed and scrubbed and scrubbed that bag and it still smelled. I even tried rinsing it out with white gas and the smell remained. Some friends used an old paint thinner can for a waste depository, and it smelled despite the presence of old paint thinner fumes. Hence, I like using old water bottles because you have them anyway and they are cheap and easy to get.
After inserting the package, duct tape the opening shut and hang from the bottom of your haul bag in a place where it should receive minimal interference while hauling. Here’s where having a roll of duct tape on a wall comes handy. I always like having a roll because it serves so many purposes; protecting a sharp edge when hauling, patching up a haul bag or rain fly, or as heavy duty first aid for something broken on your body.
When you return to the ground, you can rock, paper, scissors for the unenviable task of carrying the load down, where it can be easily deposited in the nearest dumpster.
Got any big wall poop management strategies of your own? Share in the comments below.
Mike Schneiter is the owner of Glenwood Climbing Guides.