Peak(s):  Huron Peak  -  14,003 feet
Date Posted:  06/22/2009
Date Climbed:   06/20/2009
Author:  BirdMan

 Lightening,Thunder, on Huron - Oh My!  

Having dropped my lovely wife and daughters at DIA early Saturday morning for their annual trip back home to South Dakota I found myself with a rare weekend to myself. What to do, what to do...

Actually, I had already planned a date with my old nemesis, Huron Peak. I say nemesis as Huron is the only 14er I wasn't able to summit on my first attempt. As it turned out, she wasn't going to make it easy on my second try either...

Seeing as I got a late start, there were already clouds in the sky and forecasts called for afternoon thunderstorms I pushed my CR-V to the 4WD TH. The 4WD road only had a few sketchy spots. I left the TH at 9:30.

The trail below treeline was steep, but very well maintained (thanks CFI) with no snow.

First look at the summit - below the basin.

I was making good time and hit the basin, and the first snowfield, at 10:30. Looking back at the snowfield.

Owing to my late start there were plenty more folks coming down than there were still going up.

After crossing the basin I noticed some folks attempting to glissade down with varying degrees of success. I think the snow may have been a little too sticky by this time of the day / year.

At roughly 12,500' a light drizzle started to fall which turned to sleet. A less than encouraging look at the horizon.

Ridgeline to Browns Peak to the north.

Snowpack on the west side of the summit waiting to go...

Made the summit by 11:45.

Ate a little, drank some water, had my picture taken, took a few photos of other folks and then the excitement started...

Some of the other hardy souls on the summit with me at the time (a total of 7 of us) started commenting that their ice axes and hiking poles were humming - a.k.a. singing like the proverbial canary in the coal mine - yipes!

Needless to say, this had our utmost attention until about the loudest thunder crack you care to hear on the top of a mountain erupted sending us scrambling off the summit as fast as we could go. Pandemonium ensues.

Someone had the presence of mind to suggest we space ourselves for relative safety sake. This was good advice that we tried to follow in our mad dash off the summit. I tried not to be too much of a "tundra trasher" and stay on the trail, but I must admit I took a few short cuts as did the rest of us scrambling for cover.

Made it to the basin in 45 mintues. Recognizing that we hadn't heard any thunder since the summit we all seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief, get a grip on ourselves, slow our pace and enjoy what was left of our hike.

Huron, my old nemesis, if it's true that a mountain has a personality then I think it's safe to say you and I do not get along.

In memory and tribute to John J. Stiefvater, 11/28/32 - 3/26/09.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Glad You Made It Down Safe
02/05/2011 00:22
And Congratulations. You mention CFI...I was one of the weekend crews in the summer of 1997 who worked with CFI on building the switchbacks on the lower portion of the trail. Great organization!


Atta kid!
11/30/2010 17:28
That's what we like to see, Baker! Since I worked 24 hours this weekend, it's my turn to live vicariously through you! Nicely done!


Vicarious living...
06/23/2009 03:00
is a safer bet than this adventure. The thunder was harrowing. I was on the summit with you when the sky discharged. My girlfriend and I...our axes were humming. And then CRACKKKKKKKK.

I‘m happy everyone made it off that mountain unharmed. I have had some deep thoughts on the topic. What if someone didn‘t make it off the top? What if someone broke a leg on the way down? Exactly how many people were on top? I‘m sure it was an odd number, but I‘m not sure if it was seven or nine.

It was a very vibrant, real, and affecting experience. I wrote a trip report too - about ten reports below yours on the TR list.

That CFI trail is a fine piece of work. Thanks for that uwe.


Scary stuff...
06/23/2009 03:09
I‘ve been chased down Longs, Princeton and Massive by weather, so I know all too well... Kimo, your point is well taken. This spring has been crazy!


Thanks for the ride down
11/30/2010 17:28
The lightning cracked when I was about 200 feet from the summit. I'll be back to enjoy that mountain more, hopefully on a clear day. Thanks for the ride down! Is your CRV okay?


06/23/2009 04:24
You and Kimo must have really ticked off mother nature! Glad you made it back without ending up a crispy critter. You and Kimo both have posted some pics that really have me anxious for Huron in September.


No kidding....
06/23/2009 13:49
Keith - scary stuff but also strangely fun. We‘re living life to the fullest and learning the lessons of experience. Fortunately we return from these adventures unharmed.

Spring has been crazy. Last weekend I hiked from Mount Edwards to Argentine Peak in similar weather conditions. But on that day I decided to bail near the summit of Argentine Peak. Back at treeline I relaxed in camp as the clouds closed in and graupel fell but there was no thunder.

Two weeks ago I hiked around Crater Lake near Maroon Bells in similar thick cloudy graupel conditions, but no thunder. And just three weeks ago I experienced similar graupel conditions on Bierstadt, but no thunder.

Because of these benign experiences I put my guard down on Huron. And with my guard down this crazy spring nearly got us.


Glad to see you‘re ok!
11/30/2010 17:28
Hey Birdman, or should I say Last-Man-Standing on the summit. Again, I‘m sorry if I cut in front of you in the queue on the summit. It must have sucked being the last off the summit. I was trying to be as conscientious as possible, given the circumstances.

”I'm happy everyone made it off that mountain unharmed. I have had some deep thoughts on the topic. What if someone didn't make it off the top? What if someone broke a leg on the way down? Exactly how many people were on top? I'm sure it was an odd number, but I'm not sure if it was seven or nine.”

I counted seven on the summit. I was actually keeping track of everyone making their way off the top. Three couples (my wife and I included) and one single guy in a blue jacket. I kept looking back on the ridge to see the progress of everyone behind me, making sure no one was injured or needed assistance. There was one couple that lagged way behind and they were staying very close together. I was concerned one of them might have been hurt, but they didn‘t yell for assistance and they seemed to be making progress so I assumed they were alright. Once we hit the upper snow fields and got gobbled up by the slower non-summiters I knew we‘d all be alright... At least I hope we all were.


Another reason Huron and me don‘t mix
06/24/2009 01:55
Hey jwyatt29 - on the 4WD road I apparently landed hard enough on a rock to send a piece of my undercarriage into the CV boot, breaking it. $300 later I‘m good as new! Ok - I learned two lessons that day

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