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Duct tape will usually not fix a flat on your mountain bike when you’re six miles from the trailhead, for example.But it will work to prevent blisters from ruining your life, or temporarily patch a hole in your rain fly, or hold the sole on your hiking boot for a few miles.You don’t have to be a meteorologist to figure this one out: small clouds are OK, but when clouds start to build and get taller, a storm could be brewing. i.e., don’t be on top of a mountain, or on the side of a mountain above treeline. If you can’t and a storm comes in, your last resort is to get far away from anything metal you’re carrying, drop your backpack, stand on your backpack (so your feet aren’t in contact with the ground), and then crouch down and hug your knees.Or if you’re in Colorado, it’s going to thunderstorm in the afternoon sometime every day of the summer. You probably won’t feel safe, but it’s the best you can do—that’s why it’s called a “last resort.” Unless you’re a tourist driving around Yellowstone, you probably recognize that animals that weigh more than 300 pounds are dangerous and not something you should approach as if they are Minnie Mouse at Disney World. In addition to having physical implements and skills that can slash or smash you to death, pretty much every piece of megafauna in the mountains can run way faster than Usain Bolt, so the safest place to be when viewing a bear, elk, moose, bison, or other large animal is about the length of one American football field.
I have a little stuff sack I throw in my backpack whenever I go anywhere, backpacking, hiking, climbing, skiing, whatever. The headlamp is so I can find my way back to the trailhead if it gets dark, and the space blanket is so I can survive a night outside if I can’t get back to the trailhead.
Nothing against my mom’s computer skills, but I’m not counting on her to guess my password if I’m out stranded with a broken leg somewhere for a week.
Instead, I tell someone where I’m going, when I will get back to civilization and text them that I’m OK, and who to call if I don’t.
In any adventure, be it a five-mile hike or a multi-day climb, this is my list of goals, in numerical order: Prior to his attempt on K2 in 1995, American climber Rob Slater famously told a climbing magazine, “Summit or die, either way I win.” He summited, but died on the descent with five other climbers when weather conditions abruptly changed.
To each his/her own, but if I were to adapt Slater’s quote to reflect my own ideals, it would be something more like: “Summit or live another several years to eat deep-dish pizza, either way I win.” If I learned one thing from my climbing mentor, Lee, it was this: if we say we’re meeting at 5 a.m., be there at a.m.
Don’t feed squirrels, don’t try to get a closer look at a mountain goat or bighorn sheep, and if you see a rattlesnake in the trail, get the fuck away from it.