Day Five: Misty Mountain Hopping

Closer to Relief

The long, deep howl of gusting wind woke me early in the night. It was 10:30 pm, I was cold, and I had to pee. The thought of getting out of my sleeping bag made me shutter more than I was already shuttering.

Before I left for Seattle, I tried in vain to order a pee bottle. I had read in online forums and discussion groups that a collapsible Nalgene bottle is an essential piece of equipment on Denali. The one I ordered in Germany never arrived, but I found one at Whittaker Mountaineering, RMI’s outfitting company. The Männer initially thought I was crazy until the guides confirmed the sage advice.

During our first night in the tent, my bottle proved its weight in urine-colored gold. At Camp Muir, I gave it another try. I turned on my side, opened the cap, and a warming liquid rushed inside the bottle. The stream was too fast. I had to stop peeing before I had to stop peeing. My hands sensed the increasing weight and physical expansion of the pee bottle. I was fortunately able to halt the flow before the contents of the bottle spilled over. With the cap back on, I tossed and turned in our chilly bunk until I fell back asleep.

The call of nature woke me again at 4:30 am. Fumbling in the dark, I used my the red lamp in my headlamp to cast an eery, red glow on the bottle. The lamp is great for seeing better in the dark, but the light didn’t help me determine how much space was left in the bottle. I flashed the bottle with a strobe of white light and discovered that the bottle was already full. Oh pee!

I laid in my sleeping bag wondering what to do next. The temperature had noticeably dropped inside the hut since my last relief. I didn’t want to face the colder temperatures outside. A false panic set in. I couldn’t stop thinking about going to the bathroom. I tried deep breathing. I tried to relax. I tossed. I turned. I worried some more.

A cry at what seemed to be very far off in the distance awoke me.

“Hots!” a cheery guide called to the room of mummified sleepers as he brought hot water for our breakfast.

“I gotta pee,” I yelled to myself. I quickly hopped out of my sleeping bag, jumped down the ladder to the ground, ducked my booties in the plastic shell of my double boots, and raced outside to the bathroom.

The Outhouse

The Outhouse

The cold morning hit me like a slap on the face. The ground was slippery. The wind was roaring as it whipped around the Box like an object in a wind tunnel. The strong winds had whisked away loose snow leaving a polished surface behind. I tried to concentrate on making forward progress, but my thoughts focused more on holding it in.

Closer to Relief

Closer to Relief

I reached the bathroom only to find that the door and its lock were frozen shut. Agonizing over my need for relief, I grabbed the ice tool purposely left outside the outhouse and desperately hammered the lock open. Unfortunately, the door was still stuck. I wedged the pick of the ice tool in the frozen slit of the door jam. I wanted to pry the door open. When the door failed to move, I hammered at the ice in the door crack trying to knock the ice free. I tried the door jam a second time and it budged. By placing the ice tool in different parts of the door stop, I was able to wedge the door open. Relief was near.

Ice Hammer and the Lock to the Outhouse

Ice Hammer and the Lock to the Outhouse

The wind and 5° F (-15° C) temperature didn’t mask the stench of the outhouse as the door blew open. Snow covered the floor of the outhouse, and its little window frosted over like a cloudy glass of chilled vodka. I nervously hopped inside trying not to hit my head on the low door overhang and roof. In a strange dance, I dropped my pants, my long underwear, and my boxers. My body had patiently waited for this moment to arrive, but the shocking cold instantly held my natural instinct. I had to pee, but I couldn’t.

Inside the Outhouse

Inside the Outhouse

A different type of panic grasped my attention. I was motionless, frozen solid in place.

After a few deep breaths, I managed to relax enough to go. A smile returned to my face as a warming relief finally arrived. For a brief moment, I was free of all concerns. I enjoyed the sound of the wind in the background until I realized I had to go back to the Box. Back out in the cold again. Oh pee!

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