What recreational climber wants to spend hours each day hangboarding or doing push-ups just to maintain your 5.10 plateau? Not me! I’m choosing to spend my quarantine updating the skills that really matter, and you should too. Now I’m no expert on the intricacies of anchor construction or training, but I do have a fair bit of experience in one important field: Pooping in the woods.
So, without further ado, I will be waxing poo-etic, and taking you with me on my journey in this in-depth guide on how to properly poop at your favorite crag.
The first of the 7 steps, or the 7 D’s of Dumping, if you will, is Desire. The other day I was on an early season, pre-coronavirus research trip to my favorite local crag. I had just finished the mellow 20-minute approach to Bolton Valley’s Upper West, and I was sweating right through my grossly overpriced technical pants. The stale apple fritters from the Hannaford’s dumpster and three cups of organic-fair-trade-hand-ground coffee in my stomach were turning into a potent mixture. As we passed the aptly named “Booty Wall,” I knew I was headed in the diarrhetic direction. Two paths diverged in that craggy wood and I decided to take the one with a gentler slope so I could find a good place to poop.
The spot I was searching for needed to be at least 200 feet away from any running water source, trails, camp, or cook sites because you don’t want to shit where you eat. My personal favorite spot at this crag checks all these boxes, so I climbed up out of the winding rock scramble and picked my way over a mess of roots to descend to the Lower Tier Wall. I bobbed and weaved past Fresh Meat (5.10b) and Paradox (5.11a) and then dipped around a corner to Peachy Canoodle (5.9). At the far end of this little wall, I climbed around a large boulder, avoiding eye contact with local crushers on The Thorn (5.11a), and speed-waddled into the woods.
By the time I gained a safe distance from the cliff, my contractions were only seconds apart and I knew I wasn’t far from crowning. At risk of a breeches birth, I dug quickly, scraping away with a small stick and my hands in a desperate attempt to achieve the 6-8-inch depth recommended by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. This may sound small on paper, but I can assure you that when squatted down with your primitive plumbing perfectly aligned and the shot clock winding down, it is no small feat to get through that root-bound soil. If only I had listened to my desire earlier, I could have prevented a potential dig site accident. Lucky for me, I wasn’t stuck in a Boogie Til You Poop Jason Kruk situation, and I was able to finish digging just in time.
The same crouch that had previously threatened premature defecation whilst digging turned out to be perfect for dumping. The details of what followed will stay between me and the forest, but this does present an opportunity to discuss a matter of importance. To many folks, the act of pooping in the woods is fraught with terror. From the shelter of their porcelain throne at home, thoughts of backsplash, dry firing, or falling backwards into their poop seem terrifying. The anxiety associated with such concerns can result in folks clamming up on the can and underperforming when they finally get out to the real rock. Pooping in the woods, like anything in life worth doing, requires practice before you can perform.
Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall didn’t just show up to the Century Crack (5.14b) and start plunking it. They spent two years, trapped in a basement simulating the experience so that they could perform when they got into the field. This same principle applies to pooping in the woods. My recommended training regimen has three parts. First, buy a squatty potty to get used to launching from your haunches. Second, play ambient woodland sounds to simulate environmental conditions. Third, get used to pooping under duress. Having a roommate periodically knock and jiggle the handle can simulate this or trying to poop around 9 a.m. at Miguel’s Pizza.
If all goes well, next time the desire comes at the crag you’ll be ready to spread your stance, drop your pants, and rain on the plants.
Once I finished taking the Browns to the Super Bowl, it was time to freshen up. In these circumstances I usually bring toilet paper to save myself from a chossy wipe, but I had foolishly jettisoned my pack to speed up my descent. Luckily, I found myself within reach of some excellent local greenery. As a bona-fide crumpler I’ve always preferred ferns for my backcountry wipes, but I settled for a classic Hobblebush leaf and smooth rock combo for this occasion.
Mindful of my localized impact, I try to keep the number of shit tickets I punch on the methane train to a minimum while I’m in the woods. An advanced technique for this is the backcountry bidet, which is best described as butt-luging water poured from your Nalgene, but it’s also worth checking in with your local conservation organizations about what is acceptable in your own area to avoid any poo-faux-pas. You may be required to big wall your big haul into a WAG bag for safe removal.
With my own trip to the gastro pub finished, it was time to label my leftovers in the company fridge. Ideally you don’t want animals or people finding your deposit, so you need to backfill your hole. I ended up playing a little game of poo-putt-putt to consolidate things, and then piled in some dirt and a few rocks. I’m always wary of putting another climber or hiker in a cruddy situation, so I like to plant a stick in the hole as a kind of last warning that a sewer line runs there.
And with that business taken care of, I began retracing my steps back through the woods. As a sign of respect for the communal trail mix bag, as well as a need to avoid getting giardia again, I disinfected my hands with some hand sanitizer from my climbing pack. At this point in time I’m sure we’re all acutely aware of how to properly hand wash, so there’s no excuses.
And there you have it. If you train hard, remember these seven steps, and push through any adversity you face, you are now equipped to hit the ground squatting when outdoor climbing returns. Just remember moving forward that with great power comes great responsibility. If you can avoid pooping at your local crags, do so. If you can reduce your impact by packing out, do so. Emergencies happen and it’s best that we all get real comfortable with it so we can adhere to ethical standards of backcountry hygiene and collectively preserve and protect the places we climb.