That One Time: One Crappy Climb

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Mike Libecki Rock Climbing El Capitan Poop Illustration
Illustration: Koren Shadmi

I was living in Yosemite during the summer of 1995 and working in the original Mountain Shop in Curry Village. One day a Japanese woman named Misako walked in. Petite and quiet, she didn’t speak much English, just a few words. She said, “I look for big wall partner. Lunar Eclipse. El Capitan.” I said immediately, “I’d love to do that route.” We were from different cultures, male and female, and didn’t speak the same language, but we decided to go for it.

Things started off well. We swapped leads, moving slow and steady. Although we couldn’t really communicate, we worked hard and enjoyed the time up there as equal partners. It was a great vibe until about three-quarters of the way up. I started feeling sick, probably from a bad can of beans. In a short time I went from totally normal to blasting diarrhea every time I ate, numerous times a day. It was quite embarrassing, but I still had energy, so we continued up.

On our fourth day, I was optimistic, even though my stomach churned and I writhed in pain with the constant need to release the sinister contents of my bowels. Misako led the next pitch while I belayed. It was a really windy day. Then without any warning, shit was about to come out. It was not optional. All I could do was drop my pants.

The excrement did not plummet thousands of feet to the ground like gravity would have intended. Instead, the wind lifted it up and threw it directly back at us. A brown gust that spattered on everything—the haulbag, the portaledge, the wall, me, and worst of all, Misako. I had managed to shit on my climbing partner 30 feet above me.

It was the most horrible and humiliating moment I could ever imagine. I’ll never forget the sight of it swirling around and flying in the wind. I lost about 15 pounds during the climb and didn’t recover until I got back down and took Cipro. I was fired from my job shortly after. The reason: I skipped work to climb too much. Misako and I stayed friends. We’ve since gone on expeditions to Madagascar and Baffin Island together, and I’ve visited her in Japan, but we’ve never once spoken about the literal shitstorm on Lunar Eclipse.