Ask Dave

All-terrain advice from a real adventure hero

Dec 14, 2006
Outside Magazine

I'm traveling to Colombia. How can I avoid being kidnapped?
Luckily, I'm too brawny to fit in the trunk of the four-cylinder bangers popular in Colombia, but one time in Odessa I was nabbed by Russian gangsters driving an Escalade. (I charmed my surly captors with three days of spirited storytelling. They released me with a Boratesque effusion that went something like, "Please nyet to talk no additional.") But back to Colombia, which for average-size people is a hotbed of abduction, with narco-guerrillas, leftist militias, and bandits nabbing some 800 people a year to negotiate fat ransoms or make political statements. To avoid that fate, the commonly accepted strategy is to make yourself less tempting by being unpredictable: Switch hotels, eat at different restaurants, and never share your itinerary. Robert Young "Pair of Twos" Pelton, a travel writer who was kidnapped by Colombian paramilitaries for ten days in 2003— and the designated whipping boy at my annual World's Most Dangerous Poker Party—has advised his readers to watch out for kidnappers by spinning around on the street "to see who quickly averts their eyes." (Um, Rob, I think they're afraid you're trying to sell them your book.) My strategy is more direct: Whenever I'm in Cartagena, I walk backwards. Try sneaking up on this guy, Medellín cartel!

What's the manliest hand cream?
There are those who say that, by definition, slathering your guy-hammers with scented moisturizer isn't manly. Dave disagrees. Sandpapery mitts are fine for slapping granite but not for the more gentle caress that 3-D Dave livin' (and lovin') requires. The finest Dave-approved mixture is O'Keeffe's Working Hands ($7;, a cocktail of glycerin, paraffin, and unpronounceable chemicals that's used by ranchers and mechanics, as well as dog mushers, who rub the stuff on the chapped paws of their curly-tailed finest. It comes in a 3.4-ounce circular green tin commonly mistaken for a rounder of Skoal Long Cut, so you won't have to "explain" yourself. I use O'Keeffe's when I'm low on my homemade mixture: equal parts bear fat, beeswax, and Muralo spackle, with a drop of Drakkar Noir for bouquet.

How should I go about publicizing my first ascent?
I thought that burning my name in 20-foot letters on the side of Riker's Peak was a grand way to say I'd knocked the bastard off, but the Sierra Club's lawyers disagreed. So I suggest you submit a trip report to The American Alpine Journal, the American Alpine Club's annual catalog of significant feats. The next step is to spam climbing and adventure magazines, along with any current or potential sponsors, with a press release. (Which reminds me: Mountain Hardwear, you seem to be accidentally blocking my e-mails again.) But be careful. Alpinist Jared Ogden, who's put up first ascents in Greenland, Guyana, Alaska, and Pakistan, says that only truly important climbs warrant chest thumping. "Otherwise, I look down on it, and so do my peers," he says. "I'm disgusted with some of the antics, ethics, and tactics of current professional climbers trying to sell themselves." Right. So is Dave. That's why the poster I'm commissioning to commemorate my fourth summit of Rainier won't include a head shot. Dignity, people. Dignity.

What's the classiest way to carry alcohol into the wilderness?
Two conveyances for fine spirits get Dave's stamp of approval. When weight is an issue, I use the featherlight (two ounces) Snow Peak Titanium Round Flask ($115; It's a hip, tough, modern take on a classic design—the New Beetle of flasks—and will safeguard six ounces of hooch even if you take a nasty whipper. When the trip isn't so rigorous, my pocket pal is Dalvey's trusty stainless-steel flask ($118;, a sturdy soldier that comes with its own integrated shot glass. I keep mine topped off with Hendrick's Gin. At cocktail hour (officially 10 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time, no matter where you are), mix a healthy jigger into a cup of lemon-lime Emergen-C, garnish with a few fresh juniper berries, and you've got a passable G&T. I downed a couple last October to celebrate the final leg of my almost nonstop, almost around-the-world Davetastic Nonstop 'Round-the-World Balloon Expedition—which may explain why I touched down in Grenada instead of Grenoble.

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