Monday, April 8, 2013

Sometimes, we can't do what we've always done

How do you, uh, go to the bathroom up there?

After "how does the rope get to the top?", that is one of the most common questions to get asked on the way back from a multi-day climb.  The current answer is pictured to the left.   This particular article is the "Waste Case" from Metolius Climbing, but it's more commonly known as the "poop tube".

Do your business in a paper or compostable plastic bag, stuff the bag in the tube, wipe your hands if you remembered to bring some wipes with you, haul your waste off: that's the present-day ethic.

But it was not always that way.  "How to Climb Big Walls" by John Long and John Middendorf was first published in 1994.  They give the old school answer: "Drop your drawers and let fly"... though they go on to say that this approach is no longer acceptable, even if it is still (in 1994!) commonplace.

When a given route was climbed only once a year, if that, nature would perhaps clean up the climbers' mess.  But that won't work when three or four parties may be on the wall every day of the season.  Some locations become regular latrines.  (Click here for photos of a clean-up on El Capitan.)

The old-school way may have been simple and straightforward.  The new-school way may be more awkward and inconvenient, and it may feel like a curtailment of freedom.  But it's the way we have to take, if we want to protect the resource we say we cherish.

I think you can see where I'm going with this.  Sometimes, we can't keep doing what we've always done, frustrating though that may feel.  The pressure of the old way may be more than the environment's recycling system can bear.

Sometimes we can't keep burning what we've always burned, trashing what we've always trashed, or living like we've always lived.

Because in the end, we want to keep hold of what we've always cherished.

No comments: