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Lightning Stories

Have an interesting or epic climbing story? Post it here.
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Lightning Stories

Postby MtHurd » Sun Oct 15, 2006 6:25 pm

Hopefully this is not a repeat topic but I haven't been around too long to know.

I know must of us probably have them so let's hear them. My closest call came on Jupiter Mountain when our hair stood on end, sparks were flying around the summit and the rocks were crackling. I led the charge off the summit in record time. Fortunately lightning never struck so we were dang lucky.

Two other occasions with either a buzzing watch or static in the air were on Humbolt and the Little Bear/Blanca ridge. Shavano has turned me back twice, once with the most severe storm I have encountered in the hills. Another horrendous lightning storm occured at 2 a.m. while camping below Capital Peak. I guess a tent is just as exposed as not being in a tent although a tent at least gives you a safer "feel". After the Capital experience, I've decided against any summit overnighters unless it is outside the monsoon season.

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Postby Hiking Mike » Sun Oct 15, 2006 7:26 pm

Without a doubt, the best lightning stories that I have heard came from the principal of one of Jefferson County's outdoor lab schools, Windy Peak. She has seen ball lightning, not once, but on three seperate occasions. :shock: (For those unfamiliar, ball lightning is rare phenomenon that scientists have a couple of theories on, some involving some kind of a chemical reaction initiated by the plasma in the arc or something. You can seach ball lightning and find a wealth of information.)

In the story that relates most directly to this site, she was on Mt. Evans and took shelter under some rocks with some friends, and thier gold jewelry was fused together, set aside on a nearby surface while they waited out the storm. She said that ball lightning floats very slowly and makes windows glow. I did an Eagle project for the school, and she related these stories in a conversation afterward. It's absoulutely amazing stuff, ball lightning. :)

My personal stories are pretty dumb in comparison, and I guess I'm hoping to keep it that way. I only had to see a couple storms from treeline or frantically rushing to treeline to appreciate the gravity of afternoon weather. I always plan my day based on the assumption that there will be storms at noon and keep an eye out for early arrival, so I don't have any really interesting stories.
Last edited by Hiking Mike on Sun Oct 15, 2006 7:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.
...And my memory shall serve me in the way that memories do:
To conjure bygone times, and shine them bright anew,
To erase the strain of effort from faces of the past,
And resurrect slight triumphs as glories unsurpassed...

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Postby solopeak » Sun Oct 15, 2006 7:26 pm

For those of you who feel like going through the trouble, I have a lightning story on my myspace account. It's the one titled "Lost Maples". Don't gang up on me---it's about Texas :oops: ...not a 14er. In my defense, I lived in Colorado for 4 years, and I'm moving back in about 6 months.
Anyhoo...enjoy.

http://blog.myspace.com/granolo

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Postby Doug Shaw » Sun Oct 15, 2006 7:49 pm

I won't give you any grief about Texas... but MYSPACE?!!? #-o

In August 2005 there was some pretty atrocious weather that moved over Pike's Peak during the Pikes Peak Ascent. It was bad enough that they ended up shutting down the road, which meant we ended up with 600 lightly-clad race participants stranded on the summit of Pike's Peak just standing around outside in the sleet and lighting for an hour or longer. I'm fairly sure that there were some mild cases of hypothermia but nothing extremely serious (so far as I am aware anyway), but had there been one good lightning strike it would have taken out dozens of people...

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Postby Scott P » Sun Oct 15, 2006 8:31 pm

Below is what happened to me at 13 years old (1987):

http://www.summitpost.org/trip-report/1 ... tning.html

In 1991, while working as a guide for the BSA, here's what happened on one night:

In August 1991, a t-storm expoded a tree where we were camped on a backpacking trip when I was a guide at a scout camp. The same storm also hit the main camp and lightning stuck the lifeguard tower while the lifeguard was making sure everyone was off the lake. He survived, but was unconcience for quite a while. Same exact storm hit a troop of boyscouts camped to the east and Island Lake. They weren't so lucky. It started to hail and they ran for cover under a tree. Lightning struck the tree and killed two and injured several others.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________

I definately don't take chances with lightning, no matter how many might get away with it. It's pretty scary stuff!

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Postby TK » Sun Oct 15, 2006 9:41 pm

I've had close calls with lightning climbing, but my two closest calls were on broad, flat terrain further East;

1. Eastern Maryland has a place called Wye Oak State Park. This park revolves around the massive Wye Oak, which was theoretically the oldest tree on the Eastern Seaboard. (Unlike the 11-90 in Colorado, which lives in an undisclosed location, the Wye Oak is listed as a major state landmark in every road atlas). I was near there during a massive storm in 2002 when the Wye Oak was blown to pieces by multiple lightning bolts! Official estimates say there were over 200 trees split by lighting within a mile of my location. The lightning came abruptly, with minimal warning. I was running across a 40-yard field between two buildings when the first lightning bolt hammered the building I was running towards with enough juice to set off the fire alarms and melt the disengage switch! I don't think I ever turned around to run the other way faster.

2. Driving down 680 North of Omaha, I had lightning hit close enough to my car that I was blinded while I was driving! Freaked out as I was, I had to stop for a few minutes until my vision returned while the storm became progressively uglier. This was the first of two storms. I cleared out before the second storm arrived. The front page of the paper the next morning had a spread of a whole parking lot of school buses that got tossed around like toothpicks somewhere on the North end of town.

I don't take lightning lightly. One story like this is enough to make you wary for life, and think twice about going on to the summit when a storm is gathering. It sounds like Scott and I can both count ourselves lucky.
"If you're not sure where you are, but you haven't taken the time to stop and look at the map, you're not lost, just lazy." -Darran Wells

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Postby HikerGuy » Sun Oct 15, 2006 11:44 pm

Had my first close call today on Pikes Peak. My parents were in town this weekend, so I took them up the Cog Railway. When we arrived at the summit, a fair amount of graupel was falling. I motioned for my parents to join my girlfriend and I for a photo with the train behind us. All of a sudden, I hear this crackling noise and my girlfriend's hair starts standing up. I yell for everyone to run to the summit house. I reached for my head, I was wearing a baseball cap and the little metal piece at top was burning my scalp. I looked back and saw this purplelish-pink light in the cloud, then a small rumble of thunder.

I hope this is as close a call I ever have. I use extreme caution when hiking and never continue up in bad weather. Normally you can see weather move in as you are hiking and can assess the situation before continuing up, but with the train, it just dumps you out at 14,110 ft. After a little Googling, I have now learned that graupel is an essential ingredigent in electrical storms, something about the ice bouncing off each other and shearing off electrons.

Btw, here is an excellent link on lightning safety:
http://www.explore-rocky.com/hiking/lightning.html
Last edited by HikerGuy on Mon Oct 16, 2006 8:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby llsampson » Mon Oct 16, 2006 7:56 am

[quote="Scott Patterson"]Below is what happened to me at 13 years old (1987):

http://www.summitpost.org/trip-report/1 ... tning.html

In 1991, while working as a guide for the BSA, here's what happened on one night:

In August 1991, a t-storm expoded a tree where we were camped on a backpacking trip when I was a guide at a scout camp. The same storm also hit the main camp and lightning stuck the lifeguard tower while the lifeguard was making sure everyone was off the lake. He survived, but was unconcience for quite a while. Same exact storm hit a troop of boyscouts camped to the east and Island Lake. They weren't so lucky. It started to hail and they ran for cover under a tree. Lightning struck the tree and killed two and injured several others.
_____________________________________________________________
My husband is a meteorologist, and he had a great lightning safety poster where a photographer managed to catch the moment when lightning hit an isolated tree. The whole trunk of the tree was lit up, and I'm sure it must have exploded seconds later. That said, and knowing better, there's this back part of your brain that screams at you to get under SOMETHING when you're out in a lightning storm. When we were caught out near Lizard Head we got in the safest place we could reach - off the ridge, away from the trees, crouched on the dirt - but I could really understand for the first time why people get under trees in a storm.
"Penicillin cures, but wine makes people happy."

--- Alexander Fleming (1881-1955), the Scottish bacteriologist credited with discovering Penicillin in 1928

CG_old

Postby CG_old » Mon Oct 16, 2006 8:10 am

Read this story about Nelson, over on SP... it's incredible.

Struck by Lightning

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Postby sanjuanmtneer » Mon Oct 16, 2006 2:55 pm

I remember reading a story several years ago about some people who were climbing on the Bugaboo Spires (I think). As best as I can recall, a thunderstorm caught them on/near the summit, they rapped down to a "cave" where they took shelter. Lightning hit the peak somewhere above them, traveled down thru the mountain and came out of the top of the cave and into some of their heads, killing a few.

I know this story is sketchy at best but it does hold one truth. Don't get under ledges, rocks, in caves etc. (and trees of course) in a lightning storm.
And my mind is made up,
To climb all the mountains,
Before my body's laid up,
And the night advances.
And the time is here.
(With deference to John Dillon)

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Postby Skip Perkins » Mon Oct 16, 2006 5:44 pm

I've had two lightning experiences while on 14er adventures.

The first was coming off Quandry. The sky was dark but there didn't appear to be any serious danger of storms. About 1/4 of a mile down from the summit we could see sparks coming off some of the boulders and a buzzing sound all around us. My sister in law was getting very nervous and when her hat flew off her head towards her outstretched hand she panicked and bolted down the trail. We needed to tackle her to keep her from taking a serious fall.

The second was driving south through Wyoming towards Colorado. We had just climbed Devil's Tower and were enjoying our leisurely ride south to climb a few 14ers. Lightning struck on the side of the road in front of us and scared a jack rabbit so much he went airborn and landed among our mountain bikes on top of the van. When his descent ended he was hanging upside down with his head staring into the driver's window. The driver needed to pull over and change pants while the rest of us untangled Bugs and gave him a respectful burial. After climbing the Tower you'd think we could have handled better the death of a bunny .

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Postby ColoradoGuy » Mon Oct 16, 2006 6:35 pm

Unnerving close call coming down Mt. Yale for me. Read here ...

http://amazingcolorado.com/mt-yale-may-2006.htm

-Steve
It's a tough job, but someone has to photograph the mountain. www.MtPrinceton.org

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