A lesson in prep!

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A lesson in prep!

Postby Jessicahiker » Tue Jan 24, 2006 8:01 pm

In August of 2004, we decided to hike Umcompaghre. We never expected to be element tested like we did on that day. Coming from central Texas, snow,sleet,freezing rain are almost non-exisitent. However we have always read about preparing for the unexpected. This day would prove to be a real testement to PREP. The road to the trailhead was very treacherous. Fortunately we have 4 wheel drive. Nonetheless, our nerve was really put to the test on this road. Remember in my part of Texas we dont see these heights or having to travel treacherous roads to reach a trailhead. At the 14,000 foot level it began to snow! We never see snow in central Texas! This was a treat as well as a test. Fortunantely we were prepared with snow gear as needed. Then the snow passed and it began to rain. Cold, wet rain. We packed dry clothes and had our waterproof outerwear. We had to descend at this point cause of lightning. On our descent it began to sleet! As we headed down, we passed other hikers headed up to where we just came from. Maybe they knew something we didnt. Still, we are not taking any chances. Made it home safely. I love the 14ers!


Postby kingof14ers » Wed Jan 25, 2006 8:31 am

Great story. I guess here in Colorado many people are use to "odd" weather. You made of course the right decision to turn around. It's always better to err on the side of caution.

As to what other people know that you didn't, I don't know that they knew anything. Maybe they had summit fever and were willing to ignore the possible threat of lightning. Maybe they're more experienced in reading the weather and aren't too conservative in their judgement. In any case, if we're ever unsure, we should back down or at least closely assess the situation.

Glad you enjoy our state, its mountains, and its rough roads. :D

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Postby Yog » Wed Jan 25, 2006 11:31 am

I agree with Kingof14ers. I think that heading up into a lightning storm is foolishness. Now that is only my opinion, other may feel perfectly fine climbing in the rain, listening to their metal objects & rocks "buzzing", having their eardrums almost blown out by close strikes...etc. That is not for me. I have had the holy logjams Batman scared outta me while getting caught in a thunder/lightning storm at altitude. I avoid that like the plague. Colorado is pretty high on the casulty rankings for lightning strikes in all 50 states -see this link -

You made a good choice to turn back and big kudos to you for being adequately prepared and doing your research :D
. . .Now, after the hours of torment . . . I have nothing more to do than breathe . . .I am nothing more than a single, narrow, gasping lung, floating over the mists and the summits.
-Reinhold Messner

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Postby Jessicahiker » Thu Jan 26, 2006 10:04 pm

King of 14ers, thanks for your reply. Gettings thumbs-up from a truly experienced hiker as yourself, really inspires a novice like me. Same goes to Mark Wilburn, thanks guys! I cant wait to return this summer to the 14ers. My next attempt will be Quandry.
I love the outdoors. All of my female friends cannot understand why I like to hike in the mountains. sometimes I question myself. However once I hit the trail, it becomes abundantly clear: there is no purer place than hiking up a 13er or 14er.

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Postby Humerous » Wed Apr 19, 2006 2:08 am

I whole-heartedly agree about the lightning issue (that turning back is preferable)

About 2 years ago, I was hiking Princeton with my father, and while we got a late start, we figured we still had a good chance at summitting as we are both in good shape and had good experience (we were also starting at the true bottom of the mountain, down by the ranch for anyone familiar).

We got a ways past the false summit (within an hour or so of the true summit) when we saw some clouds start whipping over the summit. As it was summer, we decided that we were too late to summit before the best chances of thunderstorms struck, and thus turned around. We saw many people going up as we descended, and as we neared treeline, all hell broke loose. A boomin' storm hit the summit, complete with freezing rain turning to decent sized hail and plenty of lightning.

While we trudged down through this (well below the treeline by this point) we saw rescue services heading up. A lot of rescue services. We asked if we could be of assistance, but as we were probably 3 hours from the summit and pretty worn already, we couldn't really help. In any event, at the bottom there were numerous ambulances waiting for numerous casualties. Had we not turned back, we probably would have been right on the summit as the storm hit, probably ending up in a hospital that evening.

Instead we drove to some hot-springs and basked in our failed summit. And it was more glorious than any view I have ever seen.

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Postby RenoBob » Wed Apr 19, 2006 6:49 pm

Just curious, what's the high point on Guam?
Some mistakes are too much fun to make only once.

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Postby Humerous » Wed Apr 19, 2006 10:35 pm

heh, highest point: Mount Lamlam 406 m
unfortunately I won't be getting much of a workload out here...I'm from Pueblo however. Time to work on my SCUBA skills though.

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Postby glodder » Thu Apr 20, 2006 5:24 am

"Numerous" casualties? When was this? Does anyone else remember this event? I'm sure it received some major press attention...

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Prep & Safety in the High Country

Postby DinoBob » Wed May 03, 2006 12:01 pm

Although it's been 23 years since I tried to summit Mt Rainier, our climb team of 15 ran into a substantial snow storm on what had been a gloriously sunny day in June. Rainier creates its own weather, much like the Rockies do after lunchtime. That day in '83 was no exception and first we saw clouds below Camp Muir (10,000') where we were, whirling UP the mountain, then circling us overhead within minutes. Then the wind picked up and it clouded over. Interestingly, we ran into Lou Whittaker, who was leading a rapid retreat for a climb team which had turned around in the sudden storm, and he advised us to get down or get to shelter. We unslung packs and tents and laid out a campsite in shelter of rocks. The temperature was dropping, and soon it had gone from the 60's to the 30's and visibility was erased but for a view of maybe 25'. We were laid in for 24 hours, when a break in the storm enabled us to pack up and glissade down slopes and find cover; we lived to climb another day.

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Prep is All

Postby DinoBob » Wed May 03, 2006 12:09 pm

Post's always good to over-prepare, with extra food, clothing, and an expectation of encountering savage storms which drop out of clear skies even in the summer. Three of us did Uncomaphgre on my birthday in 1975, and we got to the summit by 10 a.m., got rained on with thunder and lightning in the afternoon while descending. Glad to have substantial Sno-sealed boots, ice axe, wool beret, pre-Gore Tex rain wear, and Snickers bars to fuel our return. Same experience on Long's, but we were hammered in by lightning in the "nook" between Meeker and Long's. My third trip up Long's, and third time something thwarted our efforts to make the summit.

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Postby paully » Fri Jun 30, 2006 7:47 am

One of the most valuable lessons to be learned as a mountaineer is to put all ego aside when climbing. The mountain is bigger, stronger, more unforgiving, more treacherous, and more uncaring than you are. I've made some bad decisions because of my determination to bag a summit at all costs. I've been lucky so far, but have been sobered enough by experience to know that it's a very bad habit to have. All it takes is one stroke of bad luck and it could be your last experience on this earth (not to sound too dramatic). The mountain will be there for you next time around. Anyway, I know that lesson is somewhat cliche, but the human ego has an uncanny ability to twist our priorities and allow us to rationalize bad decisions.

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Postby fillae » Fri Jun 30, 2006 1:01 pm

A guy I know was on Princeton two years ago when someone was struck. This could have been the same day. I don't think there were "numerous" casualties, but I know at least one person was struck (I don't recall if it was fatal or not).

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