Abyss Lightning - Now that sounds like a memorable Bierstadt

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Re: Abyss Lightning - Now that sounds like a memorable Bierstadt

Postby tbaileymd » Tue Aug 17, 2010 8:55 am

Actually I haven't tested it. My issue with the emergency blanket was that with the wind, I couldn't keep that envelope of still air around me that was required to keep warm.

This product should meet those needs, keeping me dry and serving as a wind break, allowing my fleece to do its job. I wouldn't expect to be comfortable. But I would expect to stay alive.

I only hike out there is July-early September so far.
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Re: Abyss Lightning - Now that sounds like a memorable Bierstadt

Postby paully » Tue Aug 31, 2010 7:21 pm

54s, it was very brave of you to post this. I hope you learn from your mistakes and continue to reach for your goal, but you may want to try hiking with partners so that you can learn these lessons from THEIR experiences, and not have to learn all of them the hard way. One thing I'll mention is that if it had been me, I would have been drinking water out of that lake. You're not talking about Chatfield here, it's a high lake and the chance of getting ill are minute. Your chances of making even worse decisions due to dehydration would have been much higher. When I was a kid, I knew nothing of giardia - my friends and I routinely drank from water sources at 5,000 feet elevation or so, and I never got so much as a tummy-ache. I'm not saying you should do it as a habit (properly apply the lesson you learned about not bringing enough water - and hydrate well before a climb so that you're carrying extra water inside of you) but desperate times call for 'desperate' measures. In general, knowing how much water to bring and how often to drink is not an exact science... especially if you're carrying a hydration bladder in your pack that you can't frequently check the level of. My advice would be to overpack on the fluids until you determine your consumption rate.

As for getting caught in a lightning storm... many of us have been there (I was caught alone near the summit of Bierstadt in a nasty storm around mid-morning - and that's not an isolated incident). I know you'll probably be more prepared in the future... but for crying out loud bring rain gear (even if the forecast calls for 0% chance of showers)!!!

All that aside, thanks for sharing your experience and I'm glad you made it out ok... be careful (and prepared) out there - take seriously the '10 essentials' list that is posted in guide books, Freedom of the Hills, and probably on this site.
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Re: Abyss Lightning - Now that sounds like a memorable Bierstadt

Postby 54summits » Tue Aug 31, 2010 9:46 pm

Thanks, Paully. There is, obviously, no excuse for the lack of rain gear. I attribute this oversight to a false notion in my head (at the time) that rain gear needed to be some kind of eVent or Gortex shell. Why it didn't hit me earlier that a simple $1 pocket poncho from Wal-Mart would have been much better than nothing is beyond me.

The biggest lesson I took away from all this was that some of the things I (we) must concern myself (ourselves) with when hiking these mountains was way overblown. Specifically:

1) Learning that, while still very dangerous, a nearby or even direct lightning strike isn't as fatal as I thought. It had been hyped to me that a lightning strike meant instant, guaranteed death. Now I've learned that it's actually more like a 10-20% chance that a direct hit will be fatal. Doesn't mean I'm not going to be getting down off that mountain as quickly and as safely as I can if clouds come in...

2) Learning that the risks of giardia and waterborn diseases are also over-blown. Again, these risks exist, but I had it set in my mind at that time that even a sip of lake water meant I was going to get very, very (like "hospital-bound") sick if I took even a sip. Now I know that this isn't the case, but I still went out and got a water purifier that comes with me on hikes now.

At this point, I can say that the 14er season is over for me, with two exceptions -- the Firefighter 14er Challenge on Quandary on 9/11, and the group meet-up at Wetterhorn on the weekend of the 25th. On each of those, I won't be alone, and I'll be adequately prepared. :)

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Re: Abyss Lightning - Now that sounds like a memorable Bierstadt

Postby Yellow Ledbetter » Mon Sep 20, 2010 8:02 am

Wow reading this thread, I have to say it definitely took some courage for 54 to put it all out there like this. I honestly think I would have just dug a hole and hid until people forgot about this. To face it though is commendable for sure. I would imagine that no one here has been as hard on you, as you have been on yourself. At least that's how I am when I screw up.

I know that last year I didn't even post that my 12 year old daughter and I attempted Pikes Peak, because we failed. I guess it was just kind of embarrassing at the time, which I know is a stupid way to feel. Don't get me wrong, we had a great time, but we didn't make it to the top, so really what was there to report? We drove from Texas, parked at the trail head, and got almost to Barr Camp. My poor daughter wanted to finish so bad, but she was almost totally gone. We planned on getting to Barr, camping overnight, and then finishing the next day. She would take a few slow steps and then stop...take a few slow steps and stop. It was starting to get late in the afternoon, and I was worried, because you could feel it getting cold. I wanted to just stop where we were, but we were in a narrow spot along the trail where we couldn't set up our tent, and I didn't know how much longer we would need to go until it opened up and we had more room. We were well prepared. I think we could have lived up there for a week with everything we had, but something just didn't feel right. I can't explain it.

At that point I just made the decision we had to turn around. She cried, but my first and only goal was not getting to the top, it was keeping her safe. Man she was mad at me for about half the trip down. The lower we got, obviously the better we felt. It got to a point that the last mile or so we practically jogged down carrying our packs. Like I said, I don't know what it was that happened, I mean we weren't even that high up, but something felt wrong, and looking back on it I don't regret making the decision to turn around. It was just hard to do given how long we drove to get there everything involved. We will go back though eventually.
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Re: Abyss Lightning - Now that sounds like a memorable Bierstadt

Postby 14erFred » Mon Sep 20, 2010 9:11 am

Yellow Ledbetter: You were wise to heed the “still, small voice” within and turn back when you did. One of the most essential skills of alpinism is knowing when to go up versus when to go back down. Reinhold Messner, arguably the greatest high-altitude climber in history, credits his survival in climbing all 14 8000-meter peaks to having a “sixth sense” that enabled him to avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Messner did not hesitate to turn back when things did not feel right, and on certain days he decided not to climb at all because he sensed danger. Discretion is often the better part of valor. And the climber who knows when to back away lives to climb another day. You made the right move at the right time. As in life, there’s more to climbing than simply reaching summits. Thanks for sharing your experience. And may your inner voice remain strong and vibrant always.
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Re: Abyss Lightning - Now that sounds like a memorable Bierstadt

Postby Tripper » Sat Dec 18, 2010 7:21 pm

54s - this has been a great thread... and it's admirable of you to share the gory details of the experience publicly.

Reading this thread has confirmed a few things I've always held to.... #1 among them is getting down is more important than getting up - and I've learned a few things also (even though I owned one.. I did not ~always~ carry the whistle... not sure why... but it certainly is an easy fix!)

While I have yet to summit my 1st Co 14er (not for lack of trying... but living in NJ - there's not much access to the glorious peaks you have ready access to :( ) - I have done a bit of backpacking across the east coast and New England and some of the same 'rules' apply.... including keeping hydrated.

I use the camel-back, keep a full Nalgene.... and an empty (for refill / 'zapping' with the SteriPen) While these items are great to have on long, multi-day hikes.. (quick driankable water... no chemical taste) I would caution.... keep the bugger warm. When the temps drop - the batteries tend to get weaker... and will not properly 'zap' the water.. (it generally trips into the 'fault' indicator...red flashing lite..)

When the temps drop - I keep the SteriPen in an inside jacket pocket... always ready...

Good luck - and keep safe - on you mission to climb 54!

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