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Squamish Access Society's novel solution to the 'Call of Nature’

No outhouse in sight? Squamish rock climbers can now access human waste WAG bags. 

When you gotta go, you gotta go, as they say.

Unfortunately, if you are rock climbing in Squamish, sometimes when the need arises you won’t be anywhere near an outhouse.

This has led to a human waste issue in some climbing areas. 

But now, the Squamish Access Society (SAS) has devised a solution they hope will help. 

The organization has launched a Waste Alleviation and Gelling (WAG) bag program. 

This type of program is already common in a lot of other climbing areas throughout the U.S. — such as at Red Rock Canyon in Nevada, Indian Creek and Zion in Utah, Washington Pass in Washington, and beyond — but it is a first for Squamish. 

SAS board member Emilisa Frirdich told The Squamish Chief that this is a pilot project and the society is hoping to expand the program if it is successful.

But it will require a bit of a culture shift for some locally.

"We climb a lot in the States in the off-season, and you see people there, they're definitely at the crag with the WAG bags. So, they come prepared, and we just don't have that here,” Frirdich said. “So we're trying to change that culture a little bit and increase the awareness by having the WAG bags available."

The dispensers include signage with (humorous) instructions and an explanation of the importance of proper waste disposal. 

The EPA-approved Restop2 WAG bags use a bag-within-a bag system to contain and neutralize human waste and minimize the smell.

"Super absorbent polymers and enzymes break down the waste and turn it into a safe, deodorized gel that can be disposed of in any trash container," reads a SAS explanation sent to BC Parks and forwarded to The Squamish Chief. 

The WAG bags also include toilet paper and hand sanitizer. 

SAS members will continuously stock the dispensers. 

Frirdich said the filled bags are odourless enough to carry in a vehicle until users can properly dispose of them and they don't seem to interest dogs, whereas unbagged human waste often does.

The program is being funded by BC Parks and several local businesses, including Squamish Rock Guides, Climb On Equipment, and the Valhalla Trail Fund.

Dispensers will be available for climbers at Stawamus Chief Provincial Park, including at the Top Shelf climbing area near Slhanay.

"That's about a half-hour hike uphill. There's been some issues there with human waste," Frirdich said. 

Other areas to get a dispenser include Mount Habrich, and at The Farm bouldering area, which is right off the Mamquam Forest Service Road.

Other locations include The Monastery at Cheakamus Canyon, and Area 44 at The Pillary.

"Hopefully, this is a success, and we can have dispensers at most of the climbing areas that are not serviced by an outhouse," Frirdich said. 

She added that SAS finds that when an area is well managed, it promotes future stewardship.

Ideally, if folks are heading into areas without an outhouse, they may bring their own WAG bags, she said.

Find out more about SAS and its programs, on its website.