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Eddie Bauer Funds Mandatory Evacuation from the Bugaboos—Part Four
Posted on October 24, 2014


Longline with high consequences

We’ve been recapping the climbing saga of Mason Earle and Erik Leidecker’s expedition to climb towering classics in British Columbia’s Bugaboo range, but there is a less serious backstory that needed to be told. When the team arrived at East Creek camp, they found a buried outhouse that was overflowing beyond capacity. Evacuating the full pot was a problem that required philanthropic funding to pay for the long line heli time required—so Mason and Erik spearheaded an effort with Alpine Helicopters and Friends of Bugaboo Park to accomplish the mandatory evac. After a quick call to Eddie Bauer’s team, guide and grassroots philanthropy manager, Caley George, the mandatory evac was funded and underway. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t let Mason ride the long-line out of the wilderness. But this is Erik’s colorful recap. —LYA Editor

Words by Erik Leidecker, Images by Andrew Burr

The title of the popular children’s book by Japanese author Taro Gomi says it all: Everyone Poops, even in the mountains.

Prior to our expedition to the Bugaboos, I’d been wondering how to handle our poop. Our camp in the East Creek Basin is high in the alpine, so there is no soil to dig cat holes and bury it, a common technique below the tree line. Another option is to use any number of poop-in-a-bag products. These are actually quite convenient and sanitary. Some have bag-within-a-bag-redundancy, a good seal, and a chemical powder, which supposedly neutralizes the smell and starts to break down the feces. Climbers on big walls will often poop in one of these bags and then stuff it in a custom-built PVC tube, which hangs underneath the haul bags. Back in the front country, the bags just go in the trash.

Because we were using a helicopter to get in and out of East Creek, the bag option seemed the best because we wouldn’t be packing out an estimated twenty-eight bags of foul-smelling excrement. It would probably just ride in the cargo basket of the helicopter!

I asked our photographer, Andrew Burr, who had camped at East Creek before, how he had dealt with his poop. It turns out the East Creek camp has an actual toilet! Problem solved.

Perched at the end of a rock promontory some 50 yards below our camp, the East Creek crapper was one of the more spectacularly positioned backcountry toilets I’ve ever used.  It sat on an exposed ledge, with a near-vertical drop to a lobe of retreating glacier and meltwater pond some 500 feet below.  The view included all of the upper East Creek Basin looking west across the Purcell Mountains, as well as Howser Towers. A laminated card detailing the descent of the popular Beckey-Chouinard route on South Howser was taped to the backrest of the toilet!


When we arrived, the toilet, which was basically a 3x3x3 plastic box with a seat, was completely buried under the snow. The toilet itself is hollow and sits over a 55-gallon plastic drum, which is where the poop goes. When we dug it out, we discovered the winter snowpack had badly deformed and crumpled the plastic, so the toilet was no longer level. There were two completely full barrels lined up next to the one currently in use, which was nearly full. The barrels were rigged with cables and designed to be flown out via helicopter long line to the nearest road at the Bugaboo Lodge on the east side of the range.

To our surprise, when freed from the confines of the deep snow and exposed to the summer sun, the plastic toilet re-formed to nearly its original alignment. During each of our seven mornings in the Bugaboos, we enjoyed the walk to the exposed perch, the now-level pooping platform, and the sublime position of the East Creek toilet.

On our fourth day of climbing, the objective was a link-up of Crescent Spire via the McTech Arête and Bugaboo Spire via the classic Northeast Ridge. The approach took us through the Bugaboo-Snowpatch col, where we ran into the guardian for the nearby Kain Hut. He asked us about the status of the barrels at East Creek.

Because flying out with poop had already been on my mind, it occurred to me that flying out the full barrels at East Creek might be a possibility when the helicopter came to pick us up at the end of the trip. Helicopter flight time is expensive, but compared to the long flight from East Creek to the airport in Golden, the shuttles to fly the barrels to the Bugaboo Lodge were relatively short. We used our SAT phone to get approval from uncle Eddie for a few extra hundred dollars in flight time, which given the altruistic nature of the request, was issued directly!

Although images of the blue barrels exploding on the rock during removal bothered us, the process actually went very smoothly. We all watched in admiration of the pilot’s skill as he accurately positioned the long line hook directly above the barrels and plucked them off the perch with ease.

Although Mason had been hoping to ride on the end of the long line with the poop, the authorities at Alpine Helicopters laughed off his request. In the end, the extra flight time amounted to less than $500 Canadian, and we felt great about leaving this special place better than we found it.

The resource that needs protecting. Mason Earle drinking in the  Upper Vowell Glacier in Bugaboo Provinical Park

After the team members returned from their Bugaboo expedition, our guide, team and grassroots philanthropy manager, Caley George, received a note of thanks from the folks from Friends of Bugaboo Park for our small act of grassroots philanthropy.  Below is an excerpt from their thank you. 

“My name is Marc Piché and I am the president of the Friends of Bugaboo Park,” says the note. “I recently spoke with Erik Leidecker and he informed me that you had approved arrangements to pay for the flight of outhouse barrels out from East Creek camp in the Bugaboos. Due to the remote nature of this camp we often have difficulties coordinating flights when the weather is good enough to pull it off.”

“Taking care of a place like the Bugaboos requires a lot of effort from a lot of people,” continues the note. “The FOBP would like to thank you, Eddie Bauer, Erik and his crew for helping out. It was very much appreciated.”

Author: - Friday, October 24th, 2014

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