Jun 7, 2007 at 6:35 am #1223567
Colorado is windy today: 100 mph gusts in the high country.
If you were caught in the high country in such a situation, without prior knowledge that very high winds were in the forecast, where would you seek shelter and what specifically what would you look for in your campsite?
Assume you are carrying something other than a flat tarp, e.g. tarptent, Gatewood Cape, miner's tent (Alphamid or Hex).Jun 7, 2007 at 9:03 am #1391499
We were caught in severe wind several years ago at a 12,000 ft camp and our hoop tents would not withstand the wind, so we pitched our bags among some boulders and surprisingly fared fairly well. There were two mega mids totally exposed that impressed me so much I went out and purchased a knock-off mid. My Hex did fantastic in severe winds this past January. I understand, possibly from this forum, that the Alpha mid has some problems due to the very un-aerodynamic flat side. I am looking forward to some other comments. Thanks for bringing this up.Jun 7, 2007 at 9:28 am #1391501
A great question.
A few years ago I was up near the top of Mt Kosciuszko in the snowy mtns in Australia, with a group of students. Wind gusts that night were recorded nearby at speeds of 60+ mph. The good thing was we had a set of Sierra Designs Dome tents, the challenge was that they were flattening in some of the strong down drafts from the large boulders we had camped near. However, these tents also sprung back up. So we all survived, did not get much sleep though.
What would I like nowadays?
I think I would still like to have a tent with poles that would flex and withstand such gusts, even if they flatten and then return to their normal shape as the wind subsides.
If I was in an open flat area I would look for a hollow and if possible pitch my tent/tarp as low as possible. I may even just use my eVent bivy, staked down.
A Stephensons tent would be a good optionJun 7, 2007 at 12:57 pm #1391533
@owareLocale: Steptoe Butte
Even tarps can do well in high winds if you use big enough
rocks for anchors at the tie outs. I have little use for
tent stakes, won't carry them unless it is ecologically
needed. Outward Bound and others have used tarps exclusively
for decades for camping in Alpine and winter high desert
I look for naturally sheltered spots-trees, boulders etc.
You can augment your bivy site by building rock or snow walls. And as Jardine says, you can hike back down to
a less stormy place.
An Alphamid is just half a pyramid and should work just
as well as the pyramids if the door is in the lee of the wind. I believe it has just been speculation, not experience
as to proclamations of its wind worthyness.
The flat front surface makes it easier than a Hex/Pyramid
to set up when using a cliff face, boulder, or over head tree limb instead of a pole. You can get closer to the
natural structure and this is much stronger than any pole you can carry when dealing with snow loads.Jun 7, 2007 at 4:53 pm #1391566
For What It's Worth: I saw a review of the BD Firstlight where the reviewer took two sets of poles when expecting high winds, and used both sets inside the tent simultaneously.Jun 7, 2007 at 6:17 pm #1391572
@djohnsonLocale: Washington State
The dual pole option is available in all Hilleberg tents as well. I've had my Kaitum in some knock down storms and the tent is excellent when slammed. I had the same experience with my Nallo 2. I never used the dual pole trick but I imagine it would be great.
In crazy storms with a Tarptent, I get into the trees, off the ridgetops (hopefully on the lee) and stake it as low as possible. With my Squall 2, I use 2 front poles and drop the poles as low as possible (digging holes for fixed poles in extreme situations). The catenary roofline of the Tarptents is a real benefit in these situations.
Sometimes, I pray. One time I layed awake all night as my Nemo Tenshi was constantly slammed by train wreck gusts in the summit of Dirty Face peak in the Cascades. I estimated 80-90mph gusts (I had to crawl outside of the tent. There was damage but I lived and am forever a convert of single wall mountaineering tents when the weather goes off the hook. Give me a Bibler, Integral Designs, Rab, in those situations! Especially the Rab Summit Extreme. This would always be my first choice high on a ridge. When testing that tent, I would look spedifically for a storm and climb an exposed peak to see how things went. That tent is unbelievable when slammed. Never felt safer in a tent and I probably never will.
DougJun 7, 2007 at 6:58 pm #1391582
Absolutely fun! Love those large diameter Stephenson poles on their tents. In alpine situations, I like to dig in the shelter into the snow (shovels are our friends). Making a berm or wall from snow is a very effective way to block wind. My Firstlight (w/ single poles) and various 'mid-style tents have weathered some pretty crazy winds in this fashion. I'm a sucker for ridgetops ( I like me a fine view). :-)>
With a bivy sack, it is possible to hunker down in the smallest of spots among the talus to get out of the wind. Not particularly a comfortable nights sleep but a survivable one.Jun 9, 2007 at 6:35 am #1391748
Re: "I'm a sucker for ridgetops ( I like me a fine view). :-)>"
Since you're still here, you must have a proven system for avoiding those late-day electrical storms that plague almost every mountain range.Jun 9, 2007 at 7:42 am #1391751
@dondoLocale: Colorado Rockies
>>Colorado is windy today: 100 mph gusts in the high country.
Yeah, Steve. I was out in it on Wednesday and Thursday nights. Though I love exposed sites with a view, I chose to play it safe on Wednesday night by getting down into some trees at 9,400 ft. I had my Montbell Diamond set up in fly-only pitch and it protected me pretty well. It was exciting though. Sometimes the wind was so intense it sounded like the roar of a jet engine.
By Thurday night the winds had died down a bit so I chose this more exposed site:Jun 9, 2007 at 7:44 am #1391752
I like challenging fate like that Vietnam Vet character in Forrest Gump who challenges the Universe from the top of a ship's mast while lightning strikes all around. :-D
Don't try this at home, kids.Jun 9, 2007 at 7:57 am #1391753
@dondoLocale: Colorado Rockies
Scaramouche,scaramouche will you do the fandango-Jun 9, 2007 at 9:57 am #1391758
"Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me…."
If anyone is interested in lightning strike management >:-)> (i.e. what d'ya do when the lightning strikes are moving closer and you're on high ground)— we could start a new thread.
Rule One–put a "Strike Here"☛ sticker on the backside of one of your hiking mates. Strategically put some distance from said individual.Jun 9, 2007 at 10:42 am #1391765
Great photo, glad I was not on the receiving end.Jun 9, 2007 at 11:27 am #1391767
On my last alpine trip a thunderstorm rolled in and I was in my tent at base camp. I could hear cloud-cloud thunder. I know the conventional wisdom is to get down off the mountain, but in pitch darkness, I thought it was more risky to abandon the tent and try to navigate down than to stay put. So we lie there under the arched conductive aluminum poles while the storm passed by. I did not sleep much, but my GF did..
I was reminded of the saying; if you haven't panicked yet you don't fully understand the situation..
Kevin, I believe you have much more alpine experience; what have you done in that situation; ever broken camp to avoid a storm?
this is not my trip; internet photo.. bad place to set up a tent..
Jun 9, 2007 at 12:07 pm #1391769
Brett, only if it was possible. I have been on some exposed ridges on some serious mtneering routes where it would have been more dangerous to get off the ridge (terrain and avalanche/rockfall considerations). All one could do was button up and stay put. The climbing gear was left ouside and away from the tent but once, I actually saw the head of my ice axe glow—St. Elmo's Fire.
Even in those situations, there was some level of site selection to help mitigate the risk of lightning strikes.
Of course,one really should try to get away fom exposed places (preferably) before an approaching Thunderstorm strikes. Failing that, stay away from sharp changes of terrain, like cliff edges, prominent landscape features such as tall trees and rock pinnacles. Don't take shelter in a shallow cave or a summit shelter (like the one atop Whitney where several people were killed or injured a few years ago). In a group, spread out—10-20 feet or more because lightning disharges will travel through the ground —-we want some survivors to administer 1st aid and CPR to the unfortunate members of the party. Hunker down on top of your pack/foam pads to help provide a measure of insulation.
If you feel the hair of your head raising— KYAG (aka duck and cover– pray to diety of choice–as it was called during the Cold War) because a very, very local strike is about to occur.
Incidentally, there is some debate on whether the amount of metal in a tent frame really adds to the risk of strike or not. Also, that Carbon-fiber poles are also conductive. Finally, of course, the odds are with you for not being struck by a ratio of several hundred thousand to one.
Finally, the photo posted above was taken from an educ. source in the public domain, not by me. In all my time exposed to various thunderstorms I have few very good pictures I've taken of lightning and what I have is all on film based stock. One of these days (or so I say to myself), I'll digitalize my archives.Jun 9, 2007 at 12:48 pm #1391775
I was stationed at Ft. Riley Kansas for what seemed like 100 years(really only 3 at a time) We had many tornados while out in the field. I became so complacent about storms that one night everyone else went for cover and I rolled over and went back to sleep. The next morning the GP small tent I was sleeping under was no where to be found luckly I chose to sleep on the ground and not in a cot.
I still put my wife and all the dogs but 1 in the basement during storms. Me and my 16 year old backpacking dog go sit outside and enjoy the storm. Am I nuts you ask, most people would say yes.
With all I have seen and experenced in 30 years of military service, I have come to this conclusion: when it is your time to go you will go, not before.
Sorry if this is off subject.Jun 9, 2007 at 2:06 pm #1391778
@cbertLocale: N. California
we were climbing up from reflection lake (above east lake) to go through a small mountaineering pass over to the uppermost Kern region
the rest of us had made the scramble up a steep slope of rough talus as a thunderstorm approaced – we were waiting up on a sort of platform just below the pass watching my dad work his way up the talus. a few hundred feet directly above him, lightning bolt strikes the jagged edge of the rock face – the resulting air blast downwards knocked him down on his ass. at first i thought he'd been hit. then he staggered up and went back to climbing to us.
we spent about 3 hours in torrential downpour waiting for the storm to work its way past – this was a particularly bad monsoon pattern, though, and it just kept dumping, with scary lightning strikes all around us on the peaks, jagged edges up above. some people got cold.
outward bound group came down the narrow sluice we were to head up and said there was a half-car sized boulder MOVING right in the middle about 3/4 way up the little chimney of the last 100' or so of the tight little pass.
we bagged it and head back down.Jun 9, 2007 at 6:04 pm #1391791
Thanks for all that advice. Avoiding caves was espcially thought provoking because thats probably where my instincts would tell me to hide. I think I better re-read Moutaineering FOTH and the Mountaineering Handbook with regard to this subject.
And COOL, st. Elmo's fire on your axe.. really amazing!Jun 9, 2007 at 8:24 pm #1391798
When I'm caught out in a (an?) electrical storm, I make the little wifie and our ankle biters form a cheer-leader-type pyramid, to attract any thunderbolts. (Does thunder come in bolts?) I sleep in a tent a good 30 feet away, and lower in elevation. When they glow with St. Elmo's fire, I can take their photos in the dark without any flash. (Will the "Tickle-Me-Elmo" doll glow with St. Elmo's fire next Christmas?)Jun 9, 2007 at 8:42 pm #1391799
It's "an" and I applaud your astute if hardly UL stategy for propitiating the donner und blitzen dieties. All's fair in the pursuit of a good nights sleep. Tickle Me Elmo dolls were recalled years ago as an affront to good taste but I have it on the highest authority that their nether parts would glow in the vicinity of lightning, Xmas or not. As such, they were once popular in the climbing community as lightning detectors and night lights until their use was banned as a fire hazard in tents.Jun 9, 2007 at 9:12 pm #1391801
I have a blow-up St. Elmo doll, is that wrong?
P.S., I've heard that the warning against caves applies only to very shallow caves. If you have a cave that goes into the mountain 76.4 feet or more, go ahead and use it, you won't be affected by lightning or thunderbolts, I guarantee it or double your money cheerfully refunded.Jun 9, 2007 at 9:39 pm #1391804
p.p.s. After you, I insist.Jun 10, 2007 at 6:24 am #1391809
If you have a small dog with you (yorkies, chihuahuas or dachshunds are the lightweight backpacker's nano-wolf of choice) their wet nose should be at the top of the the pyramid. Some kibble on a stick can be used to keep a show quality nose-up pose.
Another advantage of small ground scenters, ratters, or terriers in the outback is that they can be trained to sniff out truffles, or for real adventure treks train them to alert to poppies, coca, or cannibis. In some parts of the world small dogs make for good barter stock as well.
Good thing my wife isn't up to read this ;-)Jun 10, 2007 at 8:27 am #1391817
My backpacking dog is 80 lbs and carries his own food and all our water. He makes no noise, even the first time we met a horse on the trail or he sees a deer. I do not have to worry about anybody comimg up on us at night without him wakeing me up. Laugh if you want, but there is something to be said about a companion who does what is expected, carries his share of the load and stays quiet.
By the way, he took the picture for my Avatar.
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