“Doing Business” in the Backcountry

Beldings Ground squirrel, both furry friends and professional cathole diggers?

Beldings Ground squirrels: both furry friends and professional cathole diggers?

Guide name:  Colby Brokvist

 Yosemite, CA

Current Guide Company: Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides (SYMG) 13 years

What was your “gateway” activity?
 (What got you into the outdoors) Backpacking in New Hampshire’s White Mountains

Current specialties?
 Backpacking, Alpinism, Adventure Photography

Favorite places in CA? Bowling Ball Beach, Chasm of Doom, Summit of Mt Clark

Memorable trip: Well, the funniest stories that arise from wilderness trips seem to often be related to doing the “big business” in absence of the usual porcelain accessories. A few years ago I was leading a peak-bagging trip for a single client in northern Yosemite. Mostly we were traveling cross-country and camping way off-trail in areas that few people ever venture into. This guy had some serious anxiety about having a good place to poop — to the point where he’d nervously pre-dig his catholes at each camp and lunch spot. Only then would he set up his tent, eat some food, or attend to other camp tasks. It was always hours later, or even the next day when he’d finally use the hole for its intended purpose, if he ever used it at all.

On the third or fourth evening of the trip we found a nice place to camp and – true to form – he immediately set out to pre-dig his cathole in anticipation of the coming movement … err moment. But this time he excitedly came back from his chosen spot exclaiming that there must have been a big group camped there recently because many holes had already been pre-dug in the “latrine area.”

Remember that we were way off the beaten path. Naturally I was curious and so I had him walk me over and, sure enough; there were freshly dug holes all over the meadow he had found. These were small holes, perfectly cored and only about 2.5 inches in diameter. And there were lots of them. I asked the client if he was planning on using one of the holes for his business. “Yes, of course. This has saved me a lot of work digging.”

“Well,” I said, “Just be careful you don’t get bit on the rear end by the Belding’s Ground Squirrels who live in those holes.”

He was going to poop into an underground squirrel colony!

And as funny to me as that was, I think I was more impressed by his confidence in his aim – those were small holes!

Belding's ground squirrel holes

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