My name is Mo Beck, and I started rock climbing just a little at the age of 12, then kind of a lot when I got to college, then pretty much obsessively since 2012. I’ve won 6 National paraclimbing championships, world championships in 2014 and 2016 – then started alpine climbing in 2018. Weird switch, right?
When I agreed to head up (way, way, way) north to the Cirque of the Unclimbables, I had a hunch I’d bitten off more than I could chew. I wasn’t sure how I, as a mediocre sport climber, would do on a true remote expedition to climb an alpine big wall. I knew I would be challenged both mentally and physically, but I would never have anticipated that the part of the trip that would stick with me after would be…pooping.
Read on for a full adventurous account of one of the most memorable poop stories around…”
Gnarly note: If curse words offend you, then this blog post may not be for you BUT if you choose to read on we guarantee you will laugh your arse off!!
Let me tell you about my friend and the expedition film maker, Taylor. Taylor doesn’t like poop. He finds great discomfort in the ease with which I can discuss my own lower GI tract situations. He doesn’t feel that way because I’m a girl; I get the impression that he’s just a generally private pooper. “Goddam it, Mo,” he’d protest. “You’re obsessed with shitting. You’re disgusting.”
Fairy Meadows has a fantastic outhouse with an ingenious design – a platform over two giant plastic tubs, that the ‘house’ section can roll over the second once the first is full. At the end of the season, a parks service helicopters the tubs out to be disposed of…elsewhere. The temps stay cool at that latitude, so the smell stays pleasant. There are few enough people up there that only once during out stay did I have to wait on someone. The view on your way to the hidden hollow where the house was tucked away was of the gorgeous sheer face of Mt Harrison Smith. In short, shitting in the meadows was easy. When we realized we would be bivying on the LFT, rather than doing it in a day, our shits got a lot more complicated. “Yup, this right here,” Pat said proudly, patting his mini orange haul bag, “This here is for our shit. I’ll bring one wag bag. We can share*.” That’s probably going to be uncomfortable, I thought to myself. Taylor let out an audible gulp, and Jim – as always – looked non plussed.
After a day of climbing the first 10 pitches, we arrive at the bivy ledge. It’s a flat grassy spot about 30’ wide and 15’ deep. It’s a nook, with walls on a short and long side, and the rest of the ledge is open to the glacier 1,000 feet below. We fix a line along bolts on the back of the wall, and tie in with a rope end loosely around our waists, just enough to keep us from dying if we did manage to fall off the edge, but supremely comfortable after 12+ hours in a harness.
I was famished and thirsty, but I didn’t have to poop. I can’t say I was feeling all that happy. I was exhausted and scared from the wild climbing we had done that day – surfing picnic table sized blocks, horrendous run outs on questionable gear, having other parties rain scree down a chimney onto our heads, all while wearing a bigger pack than I had ever climbed with. Still, I didn’t have to poop.
We didn’t arrive at the bivy til 11 pm, when the northern sunlight was just beginning to fade. Tucked in our bivy sacks, the stars appeared; shortly after, the green northern lights were faintly dancing over our heads. Contrary to the weather the rest of the trip, the night was warm, still, and dry. I woke just before the sun and had a pee that I’ll remember forever – sat over the edge, my rear suspended over the abyss as my body bridged a gap between two large blocks, and a view of glaciers and unclimbed peaks without another soul (save for the three men sleeping behind me). A five star piss on a four star scale. But still, I didn’t have to poop.
As we racked up after breakfast, Pat leaned against the back wall like a cowboy leans on a fence post. “Goddam it,” he spat out slowly. “I don’t think I have to shit, but if I don’t shit now I’ll have to shit later and then I’ll be fucked. God-DAMN-it.” The next 8 pitches were all hanging belays.
Jim shrugged. “I don’t have to poop, but go for it.”
“Me either,” I added.
Taylor was staring at the ground. “I…I think I should poop.”
To find out if anyone ever actually pooped, read the rest of Mo’s first ever alpine expedition to the Cirque of the Unclimables here.
ALSO if you want to know more about Mo and her story, check out her interview on The Power Company with fellow Gnarly athlete Kris Hampton by clicking here.