Stay alive by keeping your zip up!


Dear friends, climbing lovers and adventure seekers, as you already may know, in the wilderness, there are few particular rules to be followed in terms of safety with no exceptions irrespective of how extreme or easy the activity is. Discipline and methodicalness are vital.

Even a mere hike can become tricky with hazards or uncomfortable situations, which could have been avoided if specific precautions had been taken initially (find here a general guide to ten ‘must have’ things without which you should not go into the wilderness).

Being in the field for more than seven years (yet novice and thirsty for more knowledge and experiences) most of the rules that advanced climbers follow, have become part of my routine too. I stick to them with religious respect when I am in the mountains and woods, no matter how silly they might have sounded initially, as a beginner.

 I am sharing them, all one by one starting from the first through a short story.

I recall the first day of my climbing training in Switzerland, a chilly but also shiny morning of November. I was standing at the base of a hill, whose name I still cannot recall (at that point the climb was more important than the name of the hill!), the excitement was all over my luminescent face and I was like a racehorse a few seconds before the race started.

However, Satya, my instructor was calm as always (his mantra is anyways “In the mountains, we climb slow and steady”), while giving instructions about our climb and the route. Simultaneously his experienced eyes were scanning me from head to toe, making sure my equipment was appropriate and precisely worn. I was dressed in my brand new TNF apparel, my backpack was well set on my waist and shoulders, my crampons accurately  adjusted on my boots, ice axe on my hand and my heart was ready to explode from anticipation. I was very proud of being such a good student, following precisely his words, allowing him to find no defect in my performance so far; however, haste makes waste.

Note that, this kind, smiley and zen man, Satya when in the outdoors, transforms into a completely different person. Actually, he becomes one with the mountain, meaning that he can be as peaceful as harsh at the same time, depending on the moment. Something on me suddenly attracted his placid gaze, which brought a storm into his eyes. He stared at my jacket´s right side pocket, then at my eyes and then …I swear… I got petrified, waiting for the stroke to come. At that point, I had no clue what that piercing sight was about, yet I was sure something was not done the way I had been told. Today, I laugh every time I recall or mention this incident, but that day on the mountain… I curled up and died.

Satya´s sharp words are still echoing in my ears: ¨Kiki, always keep your zips up if you want to stay alive in the mountains. This slight detail might cost your life one day. I don’t want to see your pockets wide open again”. In a serene, now voice (after all, the sun always shines after a storm) he explained that many accidents, fatal or not, could have been avoided in the past if climbers were more careful with their equipment. In addition, my life is the most important thing in the world so it deserves all my attention and discipline. He was so right…

That simple, yet major lesson is one of my beloved ones.  I have experienced it in person, in a soft edition though, while guiding beginners on hikes. It happens all the time. People forget to zip up their pockets, gloves or headlamps fall down and then thank God I always carry with me extra utensils in case of emergencies like these, and we avoid trouble. 

It is a pity to allow a mere omission to destroy a trip with friends in the woods or even put you in danger. A missing object could be crucial for your enjoyment or even for your survival. After all, we go into nature to have fun, eliminating the dangers.

Ever since, even when hanging around downtown, zips have become my obsession and my gaze is fixed on people’s open pockets.  With my friends to whom I feel comfortable enough to interfere with their outfit I react spontaneously, I zip it up and say with a still voice: “If you want to stay alive, keep your zip up!”. The outcome is always the same. They stare at me, wondering what is wrong with their friend. They know I am a bit crazy, yet they cannot acknowledge my persistence in doing so.

Stay tuned for more outdoors tips, and please…check your pockets!