Crestone Needle T-storm

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Crestone Needle T-storm

Postby Kiefer » Thu Aug 04, 2005 11:10 am

Ok, alluding back to the (Capitol Peak-squall) from which this is mentioned only in passing, is also one of the scariest moments I've experienced and most foolish.

I started out from Vail last August (2004) around 9:00 in the morning for a day-trip with my sights set on South Colony lakes and the Needle. Now, I know what you're thinking; 9:00am, Vail, South Colony lakes plus the awful 7 miles to the 4x4 trailhead, mid-August, day-trip.....ARE YOU NUTS? DO YOU WANT TO DIE? It's over 180 miles as the car drives. It was my last day off and I hadn't done anything so I was determined to hike/climb a 14er. I'd done Humboldt already so I knew my timeframe.

I got to the upper 4x4 trailhead sometime between 12:30-1:00pm and PROMPTLY began hiking up towards Broken Hand pass. The weather was definately overcast, warm and you could smell rain. But, I figured I'd at least make to the pass and make my decision based on how the weather looks out west over the valley.

From the pass, you could barely see the mountains on the other side of the Alamosa Valley. The whole valley was grey and blurry but no rain that you could actually see (just varga) plus it hadn't thundered yet. The wind was a bit too calm for my taste but from there, the pass, you can all but see the top. What the hell, I came this far, I'll do it.

Near the top of the last coulair I heard my first thunderclap. I'm now a 4 on a scale of 1-10 for nervous/scarred. I made the ridge and the top, walked to the summit, signed in and marveled at how now, I couldn't see west across the valley. It was a literal wall of grey and very obvisouly raining. It started to thunder with increasing regularity. I was so nervous. I stayed for maybe 5 minutes. But, when I got up to walk back across the ridge and down the coulair, I heard that VERY SCARY crackle in the air around me. I stopped instantly and said out loud, "What the hell was that?" I started walking again and the air crackled again. I dropped down on my chest, took my pack off and started rubbing dirt all over me (I'm still not sure why I did that). By now, I knew exactly what that sound was. That 4 immediately jumped up to a solid 10 on that nervous/fear scale. Here's the odd thing, the sound that the thunder was making up there was like listening to it through a metal tube. I've never heard it sound like that before or since. Anyway, I made it down into the coulair and BANG! The first lightning streak lit up the sky.

Now, keep in mind, I haven't eaten or drank anything yet because I wanted to get 'up there' and back in as little time as possible because the clouds were too omnious. I believe it took me a couple hours or so to get from the pass to the summit and, I swear to God on this, took me an hour flat to get back down to the pass. I collapsed once I got down and sheltered underneath that little rock-overhang on the north-side of the wall in the pass. My legs just quit. Probably due to no food and the stress. It was starting to drizzle and it was lightning/thundering more. Finally, the wind was starting to pick up--I say that like it's a good thing!? I took about 10 minutes and started down the pass and across the talus field. Half-way down, the sky just opened up. lightning everywhere and torrents of rain. I didn't run though for fear of creating too much of a disturbance (in the air).

I made it back to the truck shortly after 5:00pm and when it couldn't have gotten worse, about 4 miles down the 4x4 road I got a flat tire. My spare was bigger then the stock tires that were on the truck, so I had to dig a hole with another rock under the rotor, it's still raining cats & dogs, and finagle the spare on. That set me back another hour. I looked like I came out of the mudpit at the Nine Inch Nails set at the Lalapalooza show a few years back.

http: //
Go here to see a pic of me on top. I had no idea that my hair was standing up!
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Postby doumall » Thu Aug 04, 2005 4:20 pm


holy crap man. dont stand under overhangs either, that is a very bad place to be.
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Postby Kiefer » Fri Aug 12, 2005 6:34 pm

Not sure what you mean by 'go ahead' since the feat was already done; Darwin awards aside, yeah, it was an incredably stupid idea but you seem to have a talent of pointing out the painfully obvious.
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Postby Doug Shaw » Fri Aug 12, 2005 8:07 pm

I guess I missed this previously...

While I'm glad you got out okay, I think you were incredibly lucky. This isn't the first close call you've posted about on here either, and I'm hoping we're just not hearing (or I'm just not reading) all the uneventful trips. Just keep in mind that the more time you spend "on the edge" the more likely you are to slip over that edge.

Just ask Aron Ralston. I came away with the impression from his book that he honestly thought that he just got unlucky - wrong place at the wrong time, etc. But he spent a lot of time pushing the envelope so it really didn't surprise me at all that he eventually got nailed. It's probability - the more risk you take, the greater the odds that some dangerous situation will get away from your control.

I think what doumall and Jared (exercising the social graces of a block of granite) were attempting to say was: you may want to review your lightning safety. Standing directly under things that are taller than you - trees, rocks, etc - isn't the safest thing to do in an electrical storm.

Be careful out there!
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Postby Kiefer » Fri Aug 12, 2005 11:55 pm

Indeed. Couldn't agree with you more.
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Still Valid?

Postby Lyssah » Wed Oct 25, 2006 8:17 am

Is this link still valid? I go directly to the main Kodakgallery site when I apply the link....
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Postby jfox » Wed Oct 25, 2006 8:26 am

Careful out there dude!
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Postby Dan the Mountain Man » Wed Oct 25, 2006 8:29 am

Bis zur Grenze gefordet, koennen wir alle mehr, als wir wollen -Reinhold Messner

One does not climb to attain enlightenment, rather one climbs because he is enlightened- Zen Master Futomaki
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Postby skier25 » Wed Oct 25, 2006 3:25 pm

I haven't read this post ever (even though its been there a while). but,

Dang, dude. If you wanted a 14er so bad, why didn't you just climb something close, like Holy Cross (a reclimb even)? And yet out of all the 14ers, you choose a Crestone at 9:00 am in the morning, in Vail, and you plan on climbing it that very day. Wow.

Glad you're ok.

...and how many years have you been climbing 14ers?
...and how many stories have (haven't?) you heard of thunder storm catastrophes?
...and how long have you posted on this site, to know that it is a bad idea?

but still, If I could have gone with you, I probably would have!!! :o
Last edited by skier25 on Wed Oct 25, 2006 3:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I get acute mountain sickness when I am away from the mountains.
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Postby skier25 » Wed Oct 25, 2006 3:29 pm

No post
I get acute mountain sickness when I am away from the mountains.
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Postby Kiefer » Thu Oct 26, 2006 12:43 am

Yeah, I know. Bad, stupid idea. #-o
All I can say is that I've learned quite a bit since then. The biggest change is that I'm no longer out there just to say I summited a peak for 'list' reasons; that makes me happy.
Anyway, here's the fixed link. I added a couple more pics and went back and edited. I think it flows and reads better.
Crestone Needle T-storm
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Postby guitmo223 » Thu Oct 26, 2006 11:54 am

Great pic! My son's hair did that on the top of Tabeguache. He got into some very serious doo-doo trying to get down that mountain (Jennings Creek - or a class 4 facsimile of) and away from the lightening.
"Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred it be postponed" - Sir Winston Churchill

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