TRASH TALK

By James Przybylski

The crag's not your home, and I ain’t yo momma.

I may not be able to define trash but I know it when I see it. For most of us, this expression probably rings true. Beer cans, plastic bottles and other plastic debris have no place in our woods and around our crags, that much we can agree on. But what about the less obvious traces that climbers leave behind? Where do we draw the line on what is trash and what isn’t? To put it simply, if something is transported and subsequently left behind as the result of a human’s presence, more than likely it’s trash, brotha.

Anything else?

As a matter of fact, yes. While wrappers and containers are obvious eyesores, they might not be the most egregious of foreign material left behind on the approach trail and at the crag. Over chalked holds, obvious tick marks, the remnants of athletic tape, and cigarette butts are often times the tell tale signatures of a well-trafficked zone.

What makes this kind of trash so hard to tolerate is that it is an obvious and direct result of climbers, something we just can’t pass the buck on. Worse yet is that clean-up requires minimal effort and zero specialized equipment. Got pockets? Put your spent tape in ‘em. Have a brush? You know you do, you have like five of them. A little chalk beta can be a big help every now and again, but let the next person decide if they want to follow the white stuff or not. Thoroughly brushing off holds, especially on steeper overhanging terrain that is less affected by the rain, is always good practice.

What about poop?

You guessed it (colon) trash. The call of the wild can be unpredictable at the best of times, but following basic potty protocol can help to alleviate unnecessary stress on fragile areas and prevent the spread of disease. So join the movement and regularly follow accepted Leave No Trace Principles.

  • Use the facilities before you leave the house

  • Take advantage of free wi-fi and “download” at a local rest-stop on the drive to the crag

  • If you’re already in deep and a toilet is out of the question, it's time to break out the trowel and dig a cathole. Butt be sure to follow a few guidelines:

    • Holes should be at least six - eight inches deep

    • A minimum of 200ft away from a water source, trail, or camp

    • Burying TP is OK according to LNT ethics

    • Feminine hygiene products break down slowly and should be packed out whenever possible

Finally, everyone loves a dog, but not necessarily at the crag. If you do feel the need to bring Spot for the ride, make sure they are well-attended. This goes for anything they leave behind. Remember that bagging Fido’s feces is only ½ of the equation; pack that S#!t out with you.

And for my final song…

Listen, nature has its own soundtrack. Use discretion when bringing music to the cliff or the boulders. Not only because your taste in music is questionable, but because voices and music really do carry in the woods. Access to many climbing areas is sensitive, to say the least, with the relationship between climbers and land owners of constant concern. Take the opportunity to tune-in and turn-off whenever possible. Good conversation is becoming a rare thing indeed these days, so give the phone a rest and listen to your partner’s recounting of the botched clip, the almost send, or the time they pulled through the crux moves effortlessly the last time they went out solo and how it was a shame nobody was around to put it on “the gram”.

As climbers, we are stewards of the land we love. We maintain access to “High and Wild Places” by demonstrating to others a commitment to conservation through our actions. So remember the next time you head out for some stone surfing, pebble wrestling, or bloc-busting to bring a bag with you and walk out with more than you walked in with.

Consider adding these items to your pack so you never get caught unprepared.

Trash Bag

See something off to the side of the trail when you’re walking out? Pick it up even if you didn’t leave it behind. It makes you and the community in general look good.

Extra Sandwich Bags

Burying T.P. is an accepted practice but you get bonus points for crappin’ and packin’.

Cathole Trowel

You get it by now.

Nitrile Gloves

You’re willing to pick up other people’s trash, which is great! No reason you have to get any grodier than you already are.


James Przybylski is a member of the RMF Board of Director, currently serving as Secretary.