Before I roped up for my first long multi-pitch climb, I had a friend go over all the basics with me: how to place and clean gear, a few different knots, rope systems and management, rappelling, anchor building, and verbal commands. I even sort of knew how to hand jam.
For the first few pitches, everything went smoothly. I was remembering everything I had learned—how to tie a clove hitch, what it meant when my partner tugged on the rope three times as opposed to four, and to stay hydrated. But then, around pitch three, I realized that there was one thing my friend hadn’t covered when teaching me about multi-pitch climbing: I had no idea how to pee while on a wall.
He didn’t leave it out on purpose or forget, in fact, he wasn’t able to teach me this, on account of he has a penis, and I don’t.
Questions ran through my head:
Do I just hold it? How do I pee with a harness on? What about those tourists pointing up at us?
When I met my partner at the next belay, I asked him my questions. He smiled at me and replied,
I really don’t know what you should do about that. When I have to pee, I just unzip my fly, aim to one side or the other, and let ‘er rip.
Unsure of what to do, I held my pee for the rest of the climb.
That made for ten pitches of climbing and harness hanging with a full bladder. When we topped out, I found a bush and swore I would never do a route that was more than four pitches ever again.
A few weeks later, one thing led to another and I found myself psyched on a route that just so happened to be seven pitches long. But I really didn’t want to have to hold my pee the entire time, so I asked other female climbers how they do it, and I got a few different answers …
Some of them told me that they loosen the belt on their harness, unclip their leg loops, pull their pants down, and aim as best they can. Some bring a pee device, like a Go Girl, up the wall with them. Some even told me that they wait to get to a big ledge, take off their harness, and pee while untied.
To me, all of these methods seemed either tedious or unsafe. But the most common answer that I heard from women was a surprising one:
I just hold it. And it sucks.
Ladies, if anyone hasn’t told you this already, let me tell you this now—you do not have to hold your pee while rock climbing! There are ways to pee that don’t involve any trickery or life-risking. Here is how I do it. This surprisingly simple method came from gathering stories from other women and, unfortunately, a few trial-and-error moments.
How to pee while on a wall
1. Determine if where you’re at is a good place to pee.
Peeing on a wall can raise a few ethical eyebrows, but there is no denying that sometimes it must happen.
To ensure you’re taking all the necessary steps in order to have a low-impact pee: do not pee under overhangs or places where rain/sun cannot eventually flush your pee away. Also, try your very best to not pee directly on to the route, or on to people below you. You can do this by extending your daisy (or whatever you’re tethered to the wall with) and scooting yourself away from the route. If there are people directly below you, consider waiting until you’re at a point in the route that is off to the side. Ledges with grass and bushes are probably your best option when looking for a place to take a pee.
2. Once you’ve found a good place to pee, do NOT take off your harness, and do NOT loosen your belt.
You actually don’t even need to unclip your leg loops, but you can if you wish. On most harnesses, there is a small buckle in the back (usually right under the loop meant to clip your chalk bag to) for this purpose.
3. From here, pull down your pants and your leg loops.
You will be surprised at how much the leg loops can stretch (even if you don’t unclip them). If you’re on a ledge or a good stance, you can pee as you would normally pee outside. But if you’re at a hanging belay or somewhere without good footing, here is your best bet:
- Pull your pants and leg loops down to your ankles to ensure you don’t pee on your pants, paste your feet against the wall in front of you, and aim your butt away from the route.
- Tilt your hips back (like you’re arching your lower back or doing a backbend) to ensure that the pee isn’t going to shoot directly out in front of you, but rather in the downwards direction.
Are you laughing yet? Probably, but I swear, this works!
While simple and effective, this method is definitely exposing.
If you’re a little shy, I would definitely recommend using a pee device. With those, you don’t have to pull down your pants at all. Otherwise, I recommend climbing long routes with other women or dudes who you’re really comfortable with. And, you can always ask your partner or other parties to kindly look away for a moment.
As for the tourists looking up at your exposed booty … well, that’s just something you’ll have to learn to be okay with.
This article was originally published on March 26, 2015.
If you have any questions about this topic or other issues that you may have about climbing with a vagina, feel free to contact Georgie at [email protected].
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