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Longs Lightning Bailout Question

Colorado 14er peak questions and conditions should be posted here. 14er Trip Reports
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Longs Lightning Bailout Question

Postby keith » Wed May 27, 2009 10:44 am

What would be the best course of action if a storm suddenly came up while on the summit of Longs? I would hope not to be up there when this happened, but hypothically what would you do? Is it best just to hustle down the keyhole route, or would it be better to climb all the way down the homestrech to get a little lower? Same question goes for being along the narrows, would it make sense to descend the trough all the way down past the ledges?

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Re: Longs Lightning Bailout Question

Postby JohnWilliams » Wed May 27, 2009 11:07 am

Kiss your A$$ goodbye!
-I tend to be a Longs Peak nerd. If you have questions about the Longs Peak Massif please, feel free to ask.

But at times I wondered if I had not come a long way only to find that what I really sought was something I had left behind-Tom Hornbein

And this time you gave me a mountain. A mountain I may never climb-Marty Robbins

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Re: Longs Lightning Bailout Question

Postby Carl » Wed May 27, 2009 11:09 am

If you're familiar with the mountain and some of the different routes maybe you've got some options, otherwise I think a quick descent of the keyhole route is best. Going down the homestretch further than the keyhole would leave you with the option of (1) waiting out the storm around 13,000 before climbing back over the loft and descending that route to your car or (2) continuing all the way into wild basin, hiking to the Copeland Lake TH, and hitch hiking to the Longs TH for your car. If you're on the narrows and decide to descend the trough down past the keyhole route, you could make it to the Glacier Gorge TH and try to find a ride back to the Longs TH from there. I have only descended these routes in snow so I can't speak to how scree horrific they may or may not be.

Otherwise just assume lighting position and start praying.

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Re: Longs Lightning Bailout Question

Postby TomPierce » Wed May 27, 2009 11:11 am

Interesting question. Of course I'll premise my retreat options with a belief that since you're so far above treeline for so long on Longs Peak the idea that you couldn't see the weather deteriorating well in advance seems a bit of a stretch to me. Just for the sake of argument let's say a storm pops up while you're on the summit. While there are lots and lots of retreat options I assume you're not carrying a rope and probably aren't comfortable down climbing 4th or 5th class rock (which would probably be wet in such a storm, right?). That rules out the Northwest Couloir, Notch Couloir, North Face, Southern Block, Keyhole Ridge and Keiners routes, not to mention any raps off the Diamond retreat routes. I think the only effective descent under the assumptions above would be down the traditional Homestretch exit. Could be sketchy when wet. If the concern was to avoid being exposed to lightning there are a couple of options which all strike me about the same: (1) down the Homestretch, veer left where the Keyhole route goes right to drop into the top of Keplinger's Couloir. The Pallisades could provide some shelter/act as a lightning rod high point, but the slabs just above could be tricky when wet, (2) reverse the Keyhole and drop into the Trough, same coverage as the Pallisades I suppose, or (3) stay on the Narrows. Some shelter in the indented part, but I also recall it's not good to be in line with the edge of the rock (like at the mouth of a cave) in a lightning storm since your body could bridge the gap between the rock floor and roof. Overall I suppose my vote would be to drop into the Trough asap, and eventually schlep across the ledges to the Vaille shelter. Miserable place to weather a storm but as good as you'll find. As always, just my opinions.
-Tom

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Re: Longs Lightning Bailout Question

Postby George Kaplan » Wed May 27, 2009 11:16 am

Like you said, the best solution would be to keep an eye on the clouds early on and turn back well before the storm hits. Assuming that I was on the summit and stormclouds instantaneously formed over my head, I would personally probably try to rush my way back down along the keyhole route and only stop moving once I reached the hut at the keyhole. My rationale is that the hut is much closer than treeline in any direction around Longs, and is a much safer shelter than hunkering down beneath a rock overhang, where lightning can still strike you.

That's only what I think I would do. Once a stormcloud is overhead, I don't think that there is a "safest" bailout strategy; you're risking a strike no matter what you do (though descending in any direction is at least better than attempting to hunker down right on the summit). The real point where safety factors in, is keeping an eye on the sky so that you avoid such a situation in the first place.

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Re: Longs Lightning Bailout Question

Postby highpilgrim » Wed May 27, 2009 11:37 am

Learn to rap.

The north face is a fast way down if you can find the anchor bolts from the old cable route.

Otherwise, start early and get off the mountain because trying to beat feet down the keyhole route when it's full of tourists is impossible and dangerous.
Call on God, but row away from the rocks.
Hunter S Thompson

Re: Longs Lightning Bailout Question

Postby Steve Climber » Wed May 27, 2009 11:43 am

Mr Miyagi said it best:

"Best defense against punch, is no be there."

Keep an eye on the weather at all times...at those elevetions it is fairly easy to spot storms developing. If you see what could even be questionable skies, head for the car. My question would be what do you do with Tread Lightly etiquette??? Do you stick to the trail, or is acceptable to go "by any means necessary"?

And if you ever DO happen to get stuck on the summit during lightning, under NO circumstances should you ever yell, "RAT FARTS!!!"
Dave B wrote:And/or line thy helmet with tin foil and realize this is a freaking mountaineering website.


Steve Climber wrote:So that's your backpack, huh?

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Re: Longs Lightning Bailout Question

Postby Tory Wells » Wed May 27, 2009 12:06 pm

highpilgrim wrote:Learn to rap.

The north face is a fast way down if you can find the anchor bolts from the old cable route.

Might need to learn how to make a rope from marmot fur and tundra grasses too.....unless you just happen to carry a rope everywhere you go. :roll:

If the sh!t really hit the fan, I would think hiding out under the chockstone at the top of the Trough might be doable, assuming there was not time to make it to the hut at the Keyhole. But again, the best way to be safe is to prepare and not get caught out in bad weather, i.e. being humble enough to turn around before the summit if necessary.
"Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit, am I." -David Gilmour, Pink Floyd

"We knocked the bastard off." Hillary, 1953
"It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves." Hillary, 2003
Couldn't we all use 50 years of humble growth?
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Re: Longs Lightning Bailout Question

Postby KeithK » Wed May 27, 2009 12:08 pm

aboynamedmargrette wrote:And if you ever DO happen to get stuck on the summit during lightning, under NO circumstances should you ever yell, "RAT FARTS!!!"


I'd keep playing. I don't think the heavy stuff's gonna come down for quite a while.
Snow is dumb.™

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Re: Longs Lightning Bailout Question

Postby JohnWilliams » Wed May 27, 2009 1:41 pm

Ha Ha.... Big hitter, long
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-I tend to be a Longs Peak nerd. If you have questions about the Longs Peak Massif please, feel free to ask.

But at times I wondered if I had not come a long way only to find that what I really sought was something I had left behind-Tom Hornbein

And this time you gave me a mountain. A mountain I may never climb-Marty Robbins

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Re: Longs Lightning Bailout Question

Postby fourseasonhiker » Wed May 27, 2009 2:27 pm

In defense of Keith.....

I know that, being short, it takes me a long time to get from the Keyhole to the summit. The sky can be clear when you leave the Keyhole and head toward the ledges, and it can be stormy by the time you get to the summit.

A few years ago, before I succeeded at summitting Longs Peak (July 15, 2008!), it was clear when I left the keyhole, and I turned arounde halfway up the ledges because of an ominous feeling I had. When I got back to the Keyhole, a storm was nearly on top of me. I stopped long enough to put away my tent and grab by gear on the Boulderfield, and it began to rain then. I was caught in a bad thunderstorm while crossing granite pass.

What I am saying is that it is feasible that Keith could be keeping an eye on the weather and still get caught on the summit by a surprise storm.

Keith, I would say, 1) before you start your hike pray hard for good weather. 2) The entire time you are on your hike, pray that whatever storm is going to hit, have it hold off until you get back to your car, and keep on praying like there is no tomorrow.

Another strategy is to keep checking the Longs Peak forecast, and be ready to do that hike on a moments notice. Don't plan your hike and just pray for good weather, check the weather and plan your hike around the weather forecast. GO when the going is good, and still pray for perfect weather. It worked for me.

Good luck! I've summitted 19 14ers so far, and Longs Peak was by far my sweetest victory, because I had worked so long and so hard (over the years) to get there. I thought I would never stand on that summit and I did it! Good luck to you!
FourSeasonHiker

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Re: Longs Lightning Bailout Question

Postby FCSquid » Wed May 27, 2009 3:00 pm

fourseasonhiker wrote:Keith, I would say, 1) before you start your hike pray hard for good weather. 2) The entire time you are on your hike, pray that whatever storm is going to hit, have it hold off until you get back to your car, and keep on praying like there is no tomorrow.

Another strategy is to keep checking the Longs Peak forecast, and be ready to do that hike on a moments notice. Don't plan your hike and just pray for good weather, check the weather and plan your hike around the weather forecast. GO when the going is good, and still pray for perfect weather. It worked for me.


... and get out there EARLY! If you're at the Keyhole by daybreak (meaning like a 3AM start from the ranger station) you can eliminate a lot of these surprises. When I climbed Longs last year I was at the Keyhole on the way down right at noon. The timing of your summit push has a lot to do with getting caught or not caught in a thunderstorm.
"Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."
-Benjamin Franklin

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