Backpacker clenches for two days to avoid digging cathole

CENTER SANDWICH, NEW HAMPSHIRE — Horace Sharples believes that the true test of outdoor ethics is when one follows them at great personal cost.  He put that into practice last weekend on a backpack through the famed White Mountains of New Hampshire as he clenched for the last two days of his trip because he did not wish to dig a cathole.

Mr. Sharples held it in because he knew a solar toilet was available at the trailhead.  Despite having a trowel in his pack for emergency use, he cited minimizing his impact as the impetus, and certainly not a lack of desire to “go [defecate] in a hole.”  He said, “When that waist belt first cinches down tight in the morning, I just remind myself that I’m doing this for the environment.”

Poppy Conrad of the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics advises that correctly burying human waste in a cathole is the most environmentally-responsible means of disposal, but added that land managers may have specific requirements as well or certain fragile environments needed special consideration.  When told of Mr. Sharples’ technique, Ms. Conrad mentioned that the Leave No Trace principles are a set of guidelines for considering the impact of one’s behavior, and she commended him for his commitment.  She suspected, though, that consultation would be necessary to ensure that the technique presented no medical risks before Leave No Trace would consider its inclusion in their outdoor ethics training.

Mr. Sharples added that he was enthusiastic about the unforeseen benefits of his commitment.  “I got the best glute workout of my life!  The Buns of Steel workout doesn’t have a thing on holding it in for a couple of days.”

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