As the famous children’s book says, everyone poops. Whether they are young or old, tall or small, male or female, and even animals and organisms, they all need to shed waste when the body no longer has use for it.
This process of releasing waste is cyclical in nature. Normally, it happens every so often. So, what would happen if a person were in a dangerous or out of the ordinary place? How would they heed the call of nature in such frigid and high environments?
Let’s find out how hikers who climb cold mountains poop.
Understanding The Effects of Altitude
Living at a high altitude introduces a number of changes to a person’s body. Before we get to the topic at hand, let’s first understand what altitude is and the many changes that happen in our bodies in response to it.
What is Altitude?
By definition, altitude is the distance between a higher point and ground or sea level. Therefore, going up a small hill or taking an elevator up 10 floors puts a person at altitude.
There is a distinction that must be made though when referring to high altitude.
With high altitude, a person must reach over 2,400 metres above sea level. Thus, there are some mountains that aren’t considered this type of altitude.
At greater heights, air begins to thin. This is because there is weaker pressure that is grouping these air molecules together. That is why it becomes harder to breathe at the top of a really high mountain.
How Does Altitude Affect the Body?
Apart from hampering one’s breathing, altitude introduces many different changes to the body.
For starters, physical performance or ability is lessened. This is mainly due to it being harder to breathe up in the mountains.
Since there is little air brought into the body, it also means that there is less oxygen travelling to various organs and muscles in the body. Without enough oxygen, there isn’t enough energy for the muscles to perform intensely for extended periods of time.
The extreme temperatures also open up room for hypothermia to set in, leaving climbers weak and unable to function.
Appetite and Dehydration
Another effect of altitude is on one’s altitude. The height enhances a person’s metabolism, meaning they end up burning more energy. At the same time though, it also lessens a person’s appetite. This means that if they want to have a lot of energy for the climb, people will have to eat more than they want to.
At the height, the rate of losing water is similarly increased due to the cold. Thus, if left unchecked, dehydration could occur quickly.
If you’ve ever been in a cold room at home for extended periods of time, then you’ll likely know how the frigid temperatures affect your urinating.
The cold makes more blood circulate within the body. With an increased quantity of blood needing to pass by organs, it also means that more blood needs to be filtered out. This happens with urination.
Along with urination also comes the increased need to pass wind or fart. This is because of the lower pressure felt when residing in high altitudes.
The explanation for this is that there is less pressure on the stomach which leads to an increase in intestinal gas. Thus, there is a need to pass it more often.
There is also a theory that the higher altitudes affect a person’s bowels.
Finally, we have what we came for which is defecating. With the increase in urination and passing wind, one would assume that people at altitude also need to poop more. However, the answer is surprisingly the opposite.
When high above sea level, people actually tend to defecate less than normal. Explanations for this are sparse, with some hinting at either the belly carrying more gas or more energy being burned as the culprit.
Despite that, hikers do still need to go even in cold mountains. The question now is, how do they do it?
How Mountain Climbers Poop?
Everything about climbing a tall mountain is pretty extreme. From the sheer height, the physical prowess needed, and the courage needed to face the odds, climbers can do it all. So why not defecate in altitudes as well?
Oftentimes, the simplest solution is the best one. One would think that people merely crouch over an edge and let their waste fall. However, this is a terrible solution as it will cover the mountain entirely in faeces. In addition, it could hit other climbers square on the face when they are climbing. Yuck!
Fortunately, climbers have experienced this and come up with more elegant solutions. This one comes in the form of a tube.
The Poop Tube
This tube was specifically designed for climbers to expel their waste and not leave it in the mountains. It consists of a PVC pipe that is 10 inches in length at the most and 4 inches in diameter. There are also caps on both ends.
Now climbers won’t be doing their business inside these tubes. These help the climbers keep the mountains clean by allowing them to haul their wastes down.
How do they go about their business though?
What is the Tube Process?
Portaledges are little areas that climbers set up so they can rest and sleep. When they need to go, they get on their portaledge and sit by the edge with their harnesses worn.
On one hand, they have a good old paper bag. This is where climbers will deposit their wastes. Inside the bag is kitty litter generously sprinkled to help with any odour problems the wastes may present.
After the business has been concluded, these paper bags are then rolled up and secured inside the tube. This then allows the climber to simply bring the tube down with them.
It is light and can even be attached to the harness when climbing or when doing one’s business.
The Everest Waste Problem
Prior to the creation of this elegant solution, Mount Everest was seeing a big problem with waste. Basically, the whole mountain became littered with faeces.
Current climbers may not notice it, but it is quite literally right under their feet. The ground at the top of this mountain is filled with faeces that may have hardened for several years.
Earlier on, climbers thought that their wastes would be swept up by the harsh weather conditions. This logic made sense when there were far fewer climbers scaling the dizzying heights, but more climbers shut that theory down.
That is why climbers these days are required to haul their waste down the mountains with them.
Leave No Trace
Mountaineers have a famous saying that says one should leave no trace on the mountains. This includes any pollution, food scraps, and even poop. That is why a tube is now an important tool that helps keep mountains clean.
With that said, we hope that when you climb to high altitudes, you’ll know what to do with your waste and how important it is for the mountain you are on.
While it may be fun, the risks brought about by mountaineering are many. It is best to be ready when an accident happens with the right first aid skills and knowledge.
Learn the best practices by taking CPR First Aid’s Liverpool course today.