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 Peak(s):  Mt. Bierstadt  -  14,060 feet
 Post Date:  08/27/2006
 Date Climbed:   08/26/2006
 Posted By:  djf

 Bierstadt - Take your lightening safety seriously.   

We hit the trail about 7 AM due to construction on Guanella Pass. The peak was alternatively socked in and clear throughout the hike to the top.

We summitted about 11 AM in patchy fog. Within 20 minutes of summitting, the fog grew very dense and it began to snow. In the distance, we heard thunder. At that point, I told my friend that we needed to get off the peak right the f*ck now. So we geared up and started down.

About halfway down the final pitch, it began to snow very very hard. Within 2 minutes we had whiteout condiditons. Many more people began to head down. Behind me, one guy told his friend he could feel electric currents on the rocks. About 2 minutes after that, there was a loud crack and something smacked me very hard in the back of the head. It took about 2 seconds to realize that I had been struck by corona from the charge building on the peak. Everybody still on the peak was struck (maybe 40 people in all). One woman who was closer to the summit than I was told us that she had been knocked down.

Right after the crack, I started yelling for people to get down into the lightening position spread out, and to get out from under the rocks. This was not an easy thing to do. We were in the absolute worst place possible. We stayed in the lightening position for a few mintes before deciding the best plan was to get down the mountain as quickly as humanly possible. We climbed down the rest of the talus VERY rapidly trying to help motivate others to get the hell out of dodge.

When we got off of the peak itself, there was another loud crack from another discharge. I was not struck the second time. People again assumed the lightening position, but again we were in a very very bad place, so after waiting a few seconds (in near whiteout conditions) we again assumed our very rapid descent off of the peak. When we got below about 13,000 feet the storm finally broke.

Since we weren't completely out of danger, we kept moving down the trail as quickly as possible. We did meet several morons who refused the advice of 40 people telling them to turn around and not risk it. EVERYBODY going down told EVERYBODY going up to get the hell out of there. Out of maybe a dozen people, only 4 listened. Finally in disgust, my friend told one party that when he got back to the car he would happily call search and rescue and tell them to get the helicopters warmed up. They were less than happy with him to say the least.

So, a somewhat terrifying experience for my 2nd 14er.

Another scary thing is that there we several much more experienced climbers than us who also got caught. So it can happen to anybody.

Only 2 things:

1. If you go up with people, make sure they know the proper lightening position. I saw several people taking shelter under the rocks in very dangerous spark gaps. I tried to find lower ground away from conductors, but it was hard on that talus.

2. If you meet several dozen people who tell you to turn around, that the peak is to dangerous, you should listen. We pleaded with at least a dozen people to turn around and all except 4 ignored us. Lo and behold, about 2 hours later another storm rolled in over the peak. Idiots.

3. I never personally felt any charge building up on me before getting nailed.

4. We were off the peak before noon as generally perscribed. I think I‘m going to start shooting for 10 AM...

 


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