I don’t recall who coined my nickname, Dangerous Dan. It may have been while climbing at Mt Lemon in Tucson, when I was in college in Arizona. I was strong and could climb well, but not yet proficient at placing gear for protection. I had gotten strong by reading what John Bacher (a famous free- solo climber active in the 1980s and 90s) said about training. Bacher said if you could do ten sets of ten finger-tips pull-ups, you were ready to climb hard things. While I was held up in my apartment, studying to be an engineer, I took breaks to do finger-tip pull ups off the door trim over my bedroom closet. 

Many times I’d hike out to the bottom of a climb with more experienced climbers. If a climb was minimally protected, we’d stand around at the bottom, looking at a route, wondering if we should climb it. It came to be that if my mentors didn’t want to go first, they would ask me if I wanted to. Without hesitating I said, “Yes.” I assumed they would not have asked if it was unsafe. Sometimes the little gear I put in fell out as the rope dragged past it.

The first climber that gets to the top sets an anchor so he or she doesn’t get pulled off the top as the next person climbs up. He or she pulls up the slack in the rope as the second person climbs. The person at the top is supposed to hold the rope tight if the climber follower falls. Some of the gear I placed to pre-vent myself from being pulled over the edge fell out or become loose. At the top of one climb, I tied the rope from me to a tree. I thought the tree was good until a fellow climber reached me at the top, grabbed the rope, yanked hard, and the tree branch snapped. I learned from these experiences, and consider myself fortunate to have climbed with people who yelled at me for making mistakes and explained how to do things safer. I learned how to transform something dangerous into something safe. Today those who climb with me can’t understand the moniker. They say I’m one of the safest climbers they know. As Donovan passed on chord progressions and a style of finger-picking on to John Lennon, I’m passing these tips on to you: 

Tip #1: Don’t fall. 

There are a lot of things that can go wrong. The gear you have may not fit inside a crack securely; the rock may beroken; the direction gear is pulled when you fall may cause it to be pulled out. This is why Dangerous Dan has the rule:, never fall. If you don’t fall, you don’t have to worry about the protection failing. 

Tip #2: Don’t hang on your gear. 

The protection you place should only be used if you fall. Never hang on gear unless you absolutely must. This includes to belay, directly to the anchor. (Don’t load the anchor as you belay). Aid climbing is the exception. 

I was 100 feet from the top on a multi-pitch free-climb, when I stopped to rest. Sport climbers were climbing single-pitch routes on the bottom and rappelling back to the ground. I was climbing high above, out of sight, taking my time and being careful. My partner saw that I was getting tired, and yelled for me to rest by hanging on a cam I had just placed under a roof. I didn’t want to hang on it. My partner began to freak out. He kept yelling at me to rest. I gave in. I had him pull the rope tight, as I gently put my weight on the cam.

For a moment things were fine. then kaboom! The of my weight on the cam caused a huge chunk of rock to break loose, sending me and the rock free falling. In slow motion I watched myself falling. I was bear hugging the piece of rock, afraid to let go. It must have weighed 1,000 pounds. I knew I needed to separate from it before I stopped falling or it would crush my fingers when the rope came tight and we slammed into the mountain together. 

Tip #3: Don't hang out at the bottom.  

Follow this rule even if appears that no one is climbing above you, especially if you can't see anyone climbing above you. The people at the bottom were not as fortunate A climber was taking a break, eating lunch, his back against the wall. Rock fall seriously hurt him. A rescue was initiated to carry him out. Unless you are belaying, don’t sit, stand, or hang out at the boom. If you are belaying, wear a helmet, and stand tall so the chances of rock hiing you are lessened. 

Wear your helmet!

 I didn't include this as a separate tip as I assumed I didn't need to tell you this. Most do not understand: a helmet is not worn for protection in case you fall. It is, rather, to protect you against falling objects: rocks and gear that people accidentally drop from above while they are climbing.

Tip #4: Take a space blanket.

I’ve been stuck overnight on a mountain without a sleeping bag more times than I can count. Bill Paul gave me this ad- vice. I wish I had taken it earlier and more often. A space blanket is a tiny, shinny, silver package that looks like a pack of kleenex. It weighs nothing and folds out into a silver tarp. You can wrap yourself in it. It reflects body heat. If the weather looks good and you are attempting a long route and not taking a sleeping bag, take a space blanket just in case it takes longer than you expect and you are forced to bivy. 

Tip #5: Install two daisy chains on your harness. 

Permanently attach two daisy chains to your harness. Girth-hitch them to your harness. that way you can not accidentally unclip them from your harness. Use the daisy chains to clip into belay and rappel anchors by two points. Don’t clip the daisy chains into the same piece of gear or bolt. Clip each chain into a different part of the anchor. That way, if you or your partner accidentally unclips one of your daisy chains, you will still be clipped into the anchor by the other. 

Tip #6: Always stayed tied into the rope. 

Until you are at the top, stay tied in to the rope. This way, if you screw something up, as long as you and your partner are both tied into the rope, there’s a good chance something or someone will catch you before you hit the ground. 

Tip #7: Drink as much water as you can, the night before.

It takes time to hydrate. Don’t wait until you are thirsty. Twenty-four hours before you leave for a trip, cut coffee and soda, and start drinking as much water as you can. Don’t chug in one siting. Drink every 15 minutes for several hours. If you start a trip fully hydrated, you can expect to do well for at least a day or two, even if you can’t find water. 

Tip #8: Sing a song.

Brandon Thomson taught me this. We were doing a difficult climb, one harder than either of us had done. It was a trad climb, meaning we had to place gear. There were no bolts. I was still learning. As I was preparing to start, I heard Brandon singing. “What’s that you are singing” I asked, knowing the answer.

“Jingle Bells.” 

He explained he chose to sing something silly to make him think of something other than the scary climb.

Tip #9: Get lost. 

My guide book is full of stories that would not have occurred if I not gotten lost. It seemed getting lost was imperative to me having an ad- venture. Perhaps I wasn’t as lost as I thought. Maybe I just wanted to find un- climbed peaks, and following a map would have made me think everything had been climbed. 

Turn your phone off. Leave tracking devices in your pack. If you worry about not being connected, understand that these days you are rarely alone. Consider what people used to do when they needed assistance - they found someone and asked for help. Sometimes they find you. My experience with Ben the Deer Sniffer comes to mind. That’s when the excitement of living begins. When the adventure is over, you wish you could hit rewind, erase memory of it, start over, and experience it for the first time. 

Tip #10 Ask permission from the Guardians. If you don’t receive it, turn around. If you receive it, give thanks and proceed. 

Right before I fell and broke my hip, I had told my partner that we’d picked up trash, have the best guardian angels, and nothing could go wrong. Six months later, still healing, a wise man I was telling my woes to offered me this advice: 

“You were doing everything good, including picking up the trash. But that doesn’t maer. It’s how you connect with your heart. Your real energy is your  divine connection, which is beyond ego. To say, ‘I did good, therefore, I should be able to go,’ is not going to work. You don’t ask to pass safely be- cause you don’t lier. at’s a prerequisite. You get to pass because you re- spect the power. Don’t take it for granted. Don’t make assumptions. Be grateful. Know who you are: a part of something bigger than you.” 

I didn’t understand. then I remembered - I had failed to recognize, had forgoen to ask for safe passage. “The Guardians,” he continued, "'They guard the balance between light and dark. There are Landscape Angels. They are big. They are wonderful. We’re surrounded by them. the mountains have them. they are anchoring the light, and part of the invisible hierarchy of how nature operates. There are also Black Shamans, thousands of years old, who are guardians. Maybe it’s for you and others to discover: not the climb- ing routes, not the mountains, but your spirituality. Who you are. What you are.” 

After taking it all in I asked, How should I tell people about this? “Is it OK to write my book?” 

“You’ll have to learn about it. Go deep into your thoughts. Walk the paths in your imagination, and start to see what you did. Because you’ve been communicating with it all along. When you force your will as a climber, intent on going to these places and climbing these mountains, you will run into this. We have to be humble. You’re in an interesting trajectory. Your soul school that you’ve created or are part of is good. But now you’ve been slowed down.” 

“Why was I slowed down?” 

“You made relationship with the Guardians, you made relationship with the mountains and with nature. However, there’s something you didn’t pay attention to in the same way. There was a moment when your will took over. My advice is wake up to the moment and stop trying, stop wooing yourself, to do something. For whom? To do something no man has done? Let go of that. One of the great mysteries is our own connection with all life, the source of creation, and why are we here. What are we here for. What are we here to share.” 

“So when I get better, is it OK if I go back and climb again?“

“Yes. Because you’re a practitioner of sort. But now you know the danger.”