TRASH & GARGAGE, SANITATION
Garbage. Organic garbage is unsightly but presents no permanent problem except when durable items such as orange peels and bones are present. (But garbage attracts animals.) Cans, paper and especially glass are a problem. If possible, they should be carried out. One can carry a plastic bag to contain trash.
When a campfire is used, papers can be burned. Contrary to popular belief, plastic items burn thoroughly in a large, very hot fire.
When airdrops are made in remote places, it is impractical to carry out the large amounts of debris, and careful disposal is important. Burn all possible combustible items when a fire is in use. A useful technique to dispose of steel cans is to heat them to cherry redness in a very hot, large fire. This destroys the alloy, and the cans will rust away in a few years in a wet climate. Be sure that what is left is consolidated in a dump; do not bury. Do not break the glass which may be removed at a later date by helicopter, or other means. Sometimes the mess left by burial of debris appears like a ghost years later (e.g., the now defunct Valhalla (Mulvey) Hut, and the Wheeler Hut).
Fires, and especially fire rings, are not at all desirable in alpine environments, but if one is in use, take advantage of it. Trash is best packed out (if possible) or flown out with you.
Toilet. If no established toilet is present, arrange it far – at least 50m – from local streams. Bury everything, if possible. If not, cover the paper with sticks or rocks to prevent blowing away, or better, burn it. In the case of large groups staying several days in one site, it is best to dig a permanent latrine (a “biffy” in Canada) and treat it with chloride of lime. Fill it in on leaving the site, replacing the same sod that was removed. Burying the waste lessens future threat of diseases such as giardiasis and hepatitis. There is a B. C. Ministry of Forests brochure on Backcountry Sanitation.
At present there is little problem with waterborne diseases in the Columbia Mountains, because of the low population density and the few climbers who frequent the area. Nevertheless, visitors are requested to maintain healthy practices such as placing toilets at a considerable distance from streams. Please be especially careful of the problem near the few established cabins and huts (some belonging to several independent guides).
Forty years ago, one could drink from any stream in the Columbia Mountains without any real possibility of contracting waterborne diseases. The only areas where waterborne organisms can be expected are places such as the Eagle Valley and Ozalenka Lake (cabins) in the Halvorson Group, the campsites for the Northern and Southern Premier Ranges (Cariboo Range), the Blanket Mountain area (cabin; Gold Range) and possibly the southern Gold Range (Monashee Range). Do not drink from major rivers or lakes any more. All these have enough human traffic to produce contamination, and in general, people should be prepared to purify it. If the water comes from melting snow or ice, or from a spring, it will generally be safe.
The most prevalent organisms from water in the Columbia Mountains are Giardia, Campylobacter and Yersinia pseudotuberculosis. Giardia is a protozoan and is not easy to cure. Yersinia can also grow on food and is carried by animals such as deer and rodents. All produce unpleasant intestinal effects or abdominal problems. One study showed that over ninety percent of dogs tested in Colorado carried Giardia. The percentage in B. C. is not known.
Some upset may be generated by drinking glacial melt water containing glacialmilk (finely ground, suspended, rock powder). In this case, let the white rock powder settle and pour off the clear water.
The mountains are an opportunity to enjoy natural sounds and peace. Radios and taped music are a jarring intrusion on this peace, and are unwelcome as well as heavy to carry. Noisy parties late in the evening are a misery for serious climbers who must arise early, and are exceedingly discourteous to them.
Campsite Selection and Etiquette
Campsites should be chosen with environmental consideration in mind. Apart from aesthetics, safety from avalanches, presence of drinking water, adverse weather, and avoidance of areas popular with wildlife, we should try to minimize our disturbances on the environment, and campsites can leave major ones. These can be minimized by – Camping on sand and gravel in preference to vegetation. If vegetation must be used, grass is preferable to herbaceous vegetation which is preferable to shrubs, such as heathers. Shrubs take the longest to recover from trampling. High use areas should ideally be on rock, gravel, sand or grass.
Not making open fires or fire rings in alpine areas where the little wood present is required to nourish the local flora and fauna.
Not washing people or dishes in small streams or tarns, and avoiding use of soap, which can attract bears as well as contaminating the water bodies. Use hot water for cleaning.
Keeping toilet areas at least 50m from water bodies.
Removing everything that was taken in, either by packing or flying out, or by burning. “Take nothing but pictures; leave nothing but footprints.”
In concluding, we should note that the extensive logging operations in these mountains, and helicopters, are not quite the curse that many people would claim. There is scarcely a mountaineer in this area who has not taken advantage of the logging roads. Helicopters do not leave trampled vegetation. The real threat to the beauty and life support of this planet, and the beauty of these mountains, is too many children and people, high population density and destructive cutting practice. None of these need be. In order to solve these problems, as any other problems, one should work at their roots rather than only at the symptoms which appear.
Despite some destruction, the beauty of the Columbia Mountains is mostly intact, and with a bit of care can remain so. The Columbia Mountains defend themselves better than the Rockies because of the high growth rate of vegetation and resultant difficulties of entry. To the proponents of this area, the difficulties are part of the game.