Poop and Acid, Baby

What a loaded title! What is this going to be about?! The title should really read, “Poop and Acid Baby.”

Every fall season the Forest Service has to remove all of the poop vaults from the Enchantments in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. All summer long the Wilderness and Climbing Rangers swapped out the 40 gallon back-breakers of poop for “clean” empties and stashed the full tanks out of sight. There are five of these toilets, each location containing 3 or 4 vaults. The tanks, much too heavy to carry out, are flown out by helicopter during a day-long mission of personnel moving and poop flights! But this story does not begin here.

Fellow Climbing Ranger Eric and I started this trip two days prior with a hike to Colchuck Lake. The fall weather was splitter but quite cold at night and in the mornings. We started a bit later than usual on the second day so that we might get a bit of warmth from the sun as we patrolled Acid Baby (10+ 7p). This did not help a ton seeing as the first pitch, a 10+ varying width corner, was completely in the shade. With screaming barfies right off the deck we chugged along, climbing in our puffy jackets. Streams of hikers flowed along the trail to Aasgard below us as we climbed.

The temps did not get much warmer but it doesn’t matter much, the climbing was amazing! The route is varied and the rock quality is great! And the top out pitch along the knife-edge ridge is one that I will never forget. The route traverses 30+ meters of exposed ridgeline as you sling horns and plug cams. The clouds moved in on us during this pitch and all we could see was our feet above an infinite and quiet slab of rock.

The descent is easy and quick, bringing us back to our bags in only about 30 minutes from the top. Stellar! We made our way back to camp and arrived just as darkness was falling.

Okay, Acid Baby is now complete. Moving on to POOP!!!

The following morning I packed a small day-pack and left my overnight and climbing gear at the lake. I walked up Aasgard and waited for the rest of the crew to arrive. At just about 11 am I heard the sound of the blades echoing off the rock and soon I was accompanied by three more FS Rangers and Rappellers.

We stacked and strapped full vaults together and coordinated with the pilot to get our load safely back to the staging area in Leavenworth. The heli brought in empties and removed the full vaults, then we hiked down to the next toilet. We repeated the process one last time and then waited our turn to hitch a ride out of the core and back to Leavenworth. This marks my first time in a helicopter and it did not disappoint! The Core Enchantments from the air are spectacular. And it sure is significantly less painful than walking out!

That is about all I have to say. Let your friends know how much work goes into their next visit to the latrines in the Enchantments, they just may enjoy it more!