So I was watching this video, and got to the part where this guy and girl are discussing and demonstrating whose method of peeing off the portaledge is scariest. Then I of course thought to myself, "What if there was some unseen person down below?" I don't even want to imagine what it'd be like to be starting your big wall climb then all of a sudden getting caught in yellow rain. Or worse, catching someone's stool in the helmet ("Rock!"). Does everyone bag their business on a big wall and haul it the rest of the way with them? Do they catch it and then lob it away from the wall so it doesn't hit anyone below? Do they aim for the British? Do they just check below to make sure the coast is clear? What is proper toilet etiquette on a big wall?

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2 Answers 2


Etiquette varies a great deal according to locality. In the same way that trad/bolting ethics does. Best practice would be to see if your guide book has advice for the area you are climbing in and if not speak to the locals, ie climbing shop, guides office, etc.

Yosemite has some rules and advise already laid out for climbers.

Elsewhere people are largely left to their own devices so practices range from finding a good ledge to leave your waste on, doing it straight over the edge or using a 'sh*t put' method involving pooping on a stone that can then be thrown away from the wall.

As for peeing I have never heard of anyone carrying it with them though techniques for going will vary. Alpinists or those engaged in long climbs in cold conditions will pee in a bottle inside their sleeping bag so they can avoid risks associated with the cold. The bottle will be slept with over night so it does not freeze and can be emptied in the morning.

As for how you manage going to the toilet with your climbing partners you will have to decide what is most comfortable/least disgusting between your selves. I'll leave you with another example[p172] from Yosemite...


To my knowledge, all popular routes in the United States require packing out all waste.

Here are the rules for Yosemite, which has good guidelines applicable everywhere: http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/climbingtrash.htm

Obviously, back country climbing might not have rangers to enforce those rules, but you should abide by the Yosemite rules everywhere anyway. Defecating off the wall is a clear violation of Leave No Trace ethics, so the only option when on a big wall is the "poop tube" or similar systems.

As for the people on the video, they didn't actually show them doing the deed, so they probably (hopefully) were just demonstrating the mechanics of anchoring and balancing themselves when nature calls.

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    That seems to apply to solid waste, not peeing. As I understand it (mainly from reading books such as psychovertical) it's common to simply pee off your portaledge. In that book he even tells a story about accidentally peeing on someone coming up behind him. I can't see anything in that link that talks about water waste. You couldn't pee into a paperbag?
    – user2766
    Dec 8, 2014 at 11:43
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    I agree with Liam, this is half an answer, albeit the more important half. Do people also bottle their pee? I'd imagine most people would be anxious to dump some of their water weight after hauling several days worth of drinking water for a while, unless they plan on keeping the pee incase their water runs out...
    – ShemSeger
    Dec 8, 2014 at 17:05

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