Exit, Stage One

There’s a fair bit of buzz about what this blogger refers to as The Poop Group. Not to be irreverent, but it’s a little more to the point than calling this weekend’s international conference at the American Alpine Club Exit Strategies.

I’ve lifted the following description from the AAC website: included are top land managers, scientists, entrepreneurs, and wilderness participants from around the globe to discuss and formulate strategies for managing human waste in remote areas. The Exit Strategies conference will include general/plenary sessions, poster presentations, field-proven techniques and opportunities for focused problem solving.

There’s nothing new in this conversation. Those of us who regularly hike global trails continue to see the effects of poop, wandering off-trail, erosion, selfishness, you name it. It’s disconcerting at best, given how finite this natural resource is in the face of an exploding population and interest level.

Let me be direct and maybe a little preachy. How do YOU manage your waste? Do you urinate on wildflowers thinking it’ll hydrate them? Do you leave toilet paper on the ground convinced it will biodegrade? And what about the dog? Just this weekend I was hiking on South Boulder Creek trail to find that someone had dutifully scooped the pooch’s poop in a red plastic bag – then left it tied to a tree branch overhanging the trail. BLECH!

It’s not so tough to clean up after ourselves. Pee on a rock instead of wildflowers and the mountain goats will lick the urine off the rock instead of destroying the plant. Bring a plastic container with a tablespoon of baking soda, a shovel and scoop your poop and TP into it for the trip out. Notice I didn’t say Ziploc bag – they’re not biodegradable and the chance you’ll empty the bag and clean it is a big goose egg. A container works just as well and d’oh! it’s reusable, just like a pee bottle! No need to buy those fancy expensive kits – K.I.S.S.! Leave no trace is not a big deal, either – pack it in, pack it out, done deal. It ain’t feces science and it’ll still be lighter out than on the inbound trip.

Before climbing down off my soap box, I admonish you to take a stand or, rather, a squat with Your Mother in mind. Do some research and some reading and do your part. And keep an ear to the ground for the results of the Poop Group convention. Just think how icky it would be if the ground was covered in something…oh, never mind.


Der Letzte Mensch oder Übermensch?

The Last Man. In his philosophical novel, Also Sprach Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche saw that nothing great was possible for the Last Man. It was Nietzsche's contention that Western civilization would continue to move in the direction of The Last Man, an apathetic creature, who had no great passion or commitment, who was unable to dream, who merely earned his living and kept warm.

Not so the last man on the mountain. In 1939, Boston aristocrat Dudley Wolfe set out to become the first person to summit K2. Inexperienced at high altitude, overweight, middle-aged, and unfulfilled in a life of leisure, Wolfe traveled thousands of miles to try and impress his ex-wife, only to be abandoned by his German-American expedition mates at 7000 meters. After almost two weeks languishing in his tent in the Death Zone he perished from acute AMS. A huge international scandal subsequently developed: it was Wolfe’s friend and expedition leader, alpinist Fritz Wiessner, and his deputy Jack Durrance who came under close scrutiny for inviting him solely on the strength of his bank account. His body remained in the clutches of the savage summit for 63 years.

Until Wolfe reappeared after K2’s unusually high snowmelt in 2002 exposed the remains to author and film-maker Jennifer Jordan. Walking along a remote stretch of the Godwin-Austin glacier near Base Camp, pieces of human bone, canvas tent, cook pots, and finally an old mitten with “Wolfe” written near the cuff appeared strewn about the glacier as if waiting for Jordan’s keen eye to discover them. And so the story began.

The Last Man or Superman? You decide after hearing Jennifer Jordan’s presentation at the American Mountaineering Museum on August 11th. Her novel, The Last Man on the Mountain, is fresh off the press and she’s touring the country helping unravel the mystery that’s prevailed around this controversial expedition. Whether Wolfe had aspirations driven by spiritual apathy or rampant ego, Jennifer will offer well-researched and compelling facts with photos and discussion beginning at 7 PM.

K2 is Übermensch territory, more foreboding than almost any other 8000 meter peak. It bears the second highest fatality rate among the eight-thousanders. Italian climber Fosco Maraini concluded that K2 was “all rock and ice and storm and abyss. It makes no attempt to sound human. It is atoms and stars. It has the nakedness of the world before the first man - or of the cindered planet after the last."

I’m sure Dudley Wolfe would agree.