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Rock climbers offered poo bags as Squamish, B.C., wilderness spotted with waste

(Squamish Access Society) (Squamish Access Society)

Rock climbers in B.C.'s Sea to Sky region are hopeful new bag dispensers will address a growing – and gross – problem of human waste accumulating on popular climbing routes.

With more and more climbers heading to the Squamish area, locals have increasingly been finding themselves face-to-face with feces, sometimes on narrow climbing routes with little room for maneuvering.

In rare instances, these sticky situations can even result in climbers making contact with the unsightly messes, according to Alan Ryan Tucker with the Squamish Access Society, a climbers' advocacy group.

"That can happen," Ryan Tucker said. "That would be a worst-case scenario – somebody actually touching it, having their gear run over it."

To address the issue, the Squamish Access Society has used funding from B.C. Parks to install bag dispensers – not unlike those seen at dog parks – at five climbing hotspots, including the Stawamus Chief.

Ryan Tucker said the dispensers offer eco-friendly waste alleviation and gelling (WAG) bags, which contain absorbent polymers and enzymes to neutralize waste and minimize odour.

They also come with toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

"It's an all-in-one solution for the disposing of human waste," Ryan Tucker said. "There's a kind of gelling agent that clumps everything together, almost like what you'd find in some kinds of cat litter."

Climbers can then place the sealable bags into their gear and continue on their way.

Traditionally, when nature calls, climbers and hikers have been advised to bury their waste to avoid inconveniencing other outdoor enthusiasts – but that's not always a feasible option.

"A lot of the climbing areas are really rocky, so there's not always a good spot for that," Ryan Tucker said.

"On a multi-pitch route – for example, climbing the whole way up the Chief – there's not going to be anywhere you can stop and bury waste."

Some of the climbing routes also overlap with popular hiking spots where people walk their dogs, which can create additional complications with the burial method.

"People don't dig very good holes. People aren't normally taking a trowel out with them," Ryan Tucker said.

"A dog's just going to go and sniff it and roll in it – or eat it."

Other climbing spots where the Squamish Access Society has installed dispensers include the areas known as the Monastery and Farm. The group hopes to increase the number of locations to 10 soon.

Ryan Tucker noted that climbers can always bring their own WAG bags – they're easy to find and purchase online – and stressed that the vast majority do clean up after themselves.

"Most climbers are responsible and good at taking care of this issue, but there's always going to be people caught out in an unfortunate situation and not prepared," he said. Top Stories

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