Oops! I ______ My Pants: Our Funniest Bathroom Mishaps, Part 4
For nearly a month I had been living on the vertical west face of Tahu Rutum, an unclimbed granite big wall in the Pakistani Karakorum. Alone, strung out on a portaledge and inching toward the 6,651-meter peak, I’ve never wanted a summit so badly in all my life. Through storms, challenging pitches, stuck ropes, and food rationing, I wasn’t ready to go down…until Day 22, when I ran out of food, or was it Day 21?
I figured it would take me two days to get back to base camp. One day to rappel the wall, and another to walk the eight miles back to camp. I was wrong. Two hassle-free, but excruciatingly slow days of rappelling landed me to the base of granite wall. On day three I discovered how much snow had actually accumulated on the glacier during my time spent trying to climb the peak: a shitload.
In my very weak state, I left my haul bags. I packed my backpack with necessities: sleeping bag, stove, clothes, and electronics. With intense hunger I began postholing toward wellness. It took me two painfully long days to make it back to camp; they were my fourth and fifth days without food. My pace slowed to “dangerous.” Many times I fell to the ground, taking several minutes to stagger back to my feet. Anytime I stopped painful diarrhea would start, blood red entwined with white gooey stuff that I presumed was muscle. It was obvious with each slow and agonizing step that my body was shutting down, eating itself.
The afternoon that I staggered into my base camp, heavy snow began to fall. I grabbed a jar of peanut butter, a box of macaroni and cheese, some Pringles, canned fruit, a can of tuna, and six or seven other things, and collapsed into my tent for some much deserved food and rest. I did what any starving human being would do; I stuffed my face and promptly passed out.
In early evening, not too many hours later, I heard voices outside my tent. I peered out the door and saw the look of five very concerned porters. At the time I wasn’t that psyched on the falling snow either, but looking back now, I realize their concern was likely directed at my gaunt appearance. They had been camped about a half-mile away and had been waiting for me for the last two or three days, and surely they were surprised to see me alive. They spoke nearly zero English and I, at the time, no Urdu, but through gestures and a pocket calendar, the message was conveyed that we needed to begin the five-day trek back to Hispar ASAP, like right then!
I was not having it. I felt like I could lie in my sleeping bag and sleep until the following year. Using the calendar I pointed to the following day’s date and signaled that then we would begin the trek. After some discussion they agreed. From a lying position still inside my tent I handed them some food and shut the door. I had to sleep. I dozed off, but only a few minutes later, one of the younger porters was back at my tent gesturing that he wanted to come inside. Too frail to fight with him, I let him inside and he laid down next to me on some spare clothing spewed about the tent floor. Did he want to keep an eye on me, or make sure I’d be okay through the approaching night? I wasn’t sure.
Once he was settled, I tugged at my sleeping bag in which I was comfortably lying, and pointed at him, as if, trying to understand his plan for the quickly approaching and very cold Karakorum night and his lack of sleeping bag. His response, “No problem, sir,” was one that I’ve heard many times in Pakistan and its literal translation is, “I have no idea and I have absolutely no plan.” I was in no condition to deal. I fell deep asleep.
Sometime in the middle of the night he woke me up and was shivering uncontrollably. He grabbed at my sleeping bag, touching the zipper, then pointing to himself, and then back to the bag… shivering…uncontrollably. I had seen this coming. While spooning with climbing partners at cold bivies is something that I can manage, those events are usually the culmination of years of knowing each other and climbing together. I had just met this guy and he didn’t even speak English! It was getting weird.
Then it got really weird. He crammed his feet down into the sleeping bag and nestled in close to mine. Scooting in he wiggled closer until he was able to zip the zipper up to about his waist. Under any other circumstance I would have been pissed, however, anemic and close to the edge of my life, I didn’t have the energy to say a word. Once he stopped squirming, I fell back asleep.
By definition, starving is a process. In as short as six hours when we experience low energy intake, as long as we have water, our bodies begin a series of metabolic modes. Our body recognizes when food is scarce and that it needs to begin looking for resources in preparation for what could be an unknown amount of time without food. In short, your body is buying you some time to give you a chance of finding some food. After 72 hours without food, your body’s liver converts amino acids, formerly proteins, into glucose in order to feed your brain. Your body, still starving, begins cannibalizing itself. Once this process begins most of the stomach’s healthy bacteria, necessary for digestion, dies. One of the most important things to do when food is reintroduced to the body is to take it in moderation. Try telling that to a hungry climber.
It was still dark outside and very cold when quite suddenly my eyes jetted wide open. I was not hazy, sleepy, or foggy in the least bit. I knew exactly what was coming and I could not move a muscle. My reaction was likely similar to a sleeping cougar that is suddenly awakened by the scent of a nearby rabbit. I tried to stay still, focusing in on my target… too late.
“Get out of the sleeping bag!” I screamed, as I simultaneously slammed one hand down the rear of my pants as an attempt to collect the rapid and prolific discharge. The porter, in a very panicked manor, desperately tried to claw his way out the sleeping bag. I yelled again, “Oh shit!” as the second wave came on. By now the smell had inundated the tent and as the porter tried find the zipper to the door he yelled in Urdu. After some concentrated breathing, likely similar to that found in a Lamaze class, I was able to crawl outside just in time for the third and final wave. The porter and I looked at each other, I groaned in pain, he looked back at me expressionless. We would both remember this moment.
The next morning the other porters arrived and quite excitedly my new friend, began telling his horrific experience to his friends. I was too weak to care. We all shared a lot of laughs during the following five-day trek back to the nearest village.
I owe those guys my life, and maybe for the one porter, some therapy.
On a Spring Haute Route trip I went down to the dark place (bathroom) in the Argentiere hut. There is a hole in the floor that you have to crouch over, and if everything doesn't go down nicely, there is a stick to help push it down. There is a sign on the wall that says which end of the stick to grab. As fate would have it, one guy was curious and grabbed it on the other end to see why! The result was very evident—quite shitty. Of course, then he gets very upset about what has happened and asked me for water, so I said to go outside and clean it off with snow. He insisted on hot water, so he walked upstairs to clean his hands. I decided to follow to see what would happen. He went directly to the full dining room, walking directly to the hut keeper who is known as "L'Urse the Bear.” Upon being asked for hot water, "L 'Urse" called his staff over, and said loudly, "Look at the idiot who picked up the wrong end of the stick!" After everybody laughed a bit at the poor guy, he finally got his hands cleaned up.
Imagine being in Ecuador, deep into El Casas Reserve with a friend, off season. No one around except for the lodge keeper. We have the place to ourselves!
The landscape is gorgeous. A few cows and horses graze freely around the house.
After a delicious hot chilli, time to hit the sack. The lodge keeper is in his private room upstairs. Everything is quiet.
Despite the quietness of the place, I got awoken by an urgent need to go to the outhouse. The chilli is doing its job early! So I rush out, to find a locked door!!!! Being off season, the keeper had locked every door around before going to bed.
So what now? At least it is full moon and its light is helping me see the surroundings. Impossible to dig a hole, the soil is rock hard. No trees. No loose rock. Nothing but bare ground. Ohhh… I need to go…desperately!
A great idea pops in my mind. Wow, exactly what I need: I am surrounded by cow dungs! Lots of dry ones. I immediately lift one and do my thing under it.
Happiness is so simple!
I can go back to sleep now.
In the late ’90s, for the first time ever, all three famous ice climbs on the Trophy Wall near Banff, Alberta had formed: The Terminator (WI6), Replicant (WI6), and Sea of Vapours (WI6) were “in” and ice climbers from around the world flocked to the Bow Valley. There were line-ups, aggressive behaviour and even rumours of fist fights amongst climbers. One Scottish fellow had to take a dump while waiting to get on one of the routes. Instead of hiking away for fear of losing his spot in line, he pulled down his suit and took a dump right next to where he would belay. Once he had “finished his business” he looked down to realize that his turd was not there. It didn’t take him long to realize what the warm feeling was oozing out of his hood and down onto his back.