- Jun 20, 2017 at 8:17 am #3474190
Good day my fellow backpackers.
So two weeks ago I hiked from Chamonix valley up to the mountain. It was an epic hike. So beautiful. But I didn’t mention how clouds were gathering and turning more and more dark… Long story short when I was high in the rocks a thunderstorm began. I was alone as always.
Yes I was scared. Lightening struck twice in my proximity (100-150m). I didn’t know what to do. To go downhill I had to first climb up into the dark clouds which was firing all over the place its lightening. In a rush to get off the mountain as fast as I could I started to quickly descend very steep slope. Fallen twice. Tore my ArcBlast a bit.
I did survive it. But it was so unpleasant experience
Now I must know what should I do in situations like this one. It drives me crazy you cannot know where lightening will hit, everything out of control. Any advise?Jun 20, 2017 at 8:17 am #3474191
No post editing?Jun 20, 2017 at 8:52 am #3474198Jun 20, 2017 at 9:41 am #3474215
Ken T.BPL Member
Glad you are OK.
No edits on titles or first post in a thread. Edits otherwise limited to seven days. Management is aware.Jun 20, 2017 at 10:15 am #3474222
Lester MooreBPL Member
@satoriLocale: Olympic Peninsula, WA
Most of the time you can avoid the worst of the lightning hazards by being aware and trying to predict when and if thunderstorms will develop, then plan your climb or hike to be in lower lightning areas at that time. Lightning is something that’s always in your mind every hiking day (if you hike in lightning prone areas) – it’s simply part of the hike. If you do get stuck in a lightning storm, it may be much safer to stay where you are rather than move to a safer location, especially if you have to traverse steep or technical ground in a hurry, as you found yourself doing. It can be very tempting to keep descending, especially if the altitude and exposure decreases quickly and the terrain is easy as you descend (such as descending into a more narrow valley from an exposed ridge). Over the last 25 years, on two occasion in lightning we did keep descending. But on two other occasions we stayed put and took cover because descending would not greatly or quickly provide more protection or less exposure.Jun 20, 2017 at 10:34 am #3474234
Ken LarsonBPL Member
@kenlarsonLocale: Western Michigan
Test your knowledge….Jun 20, 2017 at 4:27 pm #3474319
William KerberBPL Member
@wkerberLocale: South East US
Ken – Thanks for the test, I learned a couple of things from it.Jun 20, 2017 at 6:50 pm #3474362
Lester MooreBPL Member
@satoriLocale: Olympic Peninsula, WA
+1 on the test – I was reminded of two valuable points that had been forgotten.Jun 22, 2017 at 5:32 pm #3474833
Todd TBPL Member
@texasbbLocale: Pacific Northwest
I’ve been caught in two nasty t-storms up high, once out of youthful ignorance and once because the storm hadn’t read the book that says it’s supposed to hit in the afternoon, not the morning. :-) Based on that extensive experience, I’d say once the storm is on you, getting away from it just ain’t gonna happen. You have to run from a storm while it’s still tens of miles away. Otherwise, hunker down, assume the position (mainly try to touch the ground in only one spot, keeping feet together/touching), and wait for it to pass.Nov 24, 2017 at 3:45 am #3503764
Larry HBPL Member
Thanks for this test – I learned a few things.Nov 24, 2017 at 5:20 am #3503773
@ryanLocale: Northern Rocky Mountains
That’s pretty dang close. I understand why you thought it was scary.
I’ve been caught in situations like this, even when I try my best to avoid them. Every time, they remind me that there is inherent risk in backpacking.
In September, while guiding a Timberline trek in our Wilderness Adventures program, we were trying to cross a high pass in a storm. We were 200 vertical feet from the summit of the pass when an electrical storm hit. We have a “rule” in our guided treks that when an electrical storm is nearby, we take cover and have to wait 30 minutes after the last visible lightning strike before moving, or flee in the opposite direction. We discussed this with our group, and because we were facing very cold (T = 30s F), windy, and sleety weather, and it was late in the day, “hanging out” was not our on our list. Instead, we decided to flee and dropped 2k down into a nearby valley to camp.
It’s just not worth taking the chance, for me. You have no control an an electrical storm and being up high and exposed is pretty risky.Nov 24, 2017 at 8:02 am #3503795
Ryan, yes I think what you did is a right choice. In my situation, I just couldn’t go straight down because I had to first climb into the clouds if I wanted to follow the trail. That’s why I did panic a bit and descended a very steep slope. Not sure if I did the right thing. But I’m happy to sit here in a cozy and warm home and read your post :)
I think your rule is very good one. I’ll use it in my adventures. Thank you.Dec 22, 2017 at 11:04 am #3508775
I got caught in a nice exciting storm hiking the GR11, I thought I could get through a pass before the storm started in earnest. However, I ended up having to crawl under a big boulder and prey to the various Gods who might be able to help. Won’t be making the mistake again.Dec 22, 2017 at 3:36 pm #3508794
Cameron MBPL Member
@cameronm-aka-backstrokeLocale: Los Angeles
Terrifying stuff. Beyond best practices, surviving is largely a matter of luck. Yes, avoid the pass, but sometimes you get caught in a bad place. I have met two people who were struck while on the trail, and both suffer lifetime neurological damage. A few quick takeaways from my readings:
-Anytime you hear thunder with any kind of close interlude, you are probably already at threat. It may be closer than you think, or can approach super-fast.
-Lightning can hit anywhere. Not just the top of the pass, not just the high tree. Particularly if the ground is wet, crawling under that rock may not help, as the lightning will travel through the water. In fact, if the rock is prominent in any way, it may be worse.
-When caught, take off your pack, crouch, try to stand on the balls of your feet with them together, hold your head with your arms and tuck up tight into a compact bundle. Why? Less contact with the ground, and if you get hit, the less exposed your skin, the less exposed areas to burn. Similar to item #6 on the test Ken linked to.
http://www.highsierratopix.com has some good discussions on lightning.Dec 23, 2017 at 1:37 am #3508888
jeffrey armbrusterBPL Member
@bookLocale: Northern California
Sometimes as you come up on a pass the terrain can obscure the fact that a storm is approaching from a different direction. this happened to me at least once. And not just me–several people were lounging at the pass when the storm broke. I remember saying to someone, “ever feel like you just dodged a bullet?” as I crested the pass and saw clear skies minutes before the lightning started.
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