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Topic: Lightning at High Elevations< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 16 2012, 3:43 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Back in the fire lookout days, chairs and tables had glass insulators on the legs to provide a place to stand during an electrical storm.
What if you are camping up on a lone knob and get caught in one?  Has anyone had this experience?  I've always wondered what to do.  Fires and lightning are common in the Cascade summers.


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 16 2012, 3:50 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Most sleeping pads make pretty good insulation, as do the heavy rubber soles of hiking boots.

It's never *quite* gotten to that point for me, but I've always figured if lightning were *that* close, I'd pull my pad out of my pack (or my tent, if in camp), squat on that.

Also, if you are with a group, you should split up. If only one of you gets struck, others can care for that person. But if you all get hit...
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 16 2012, 4:29 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I'd imagine metal awning poles are a bad idea!  Natural selection..

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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 18 2012, 11:16 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Yeah it's no fun.  Just pull into a strand of trees as there's not much one can do except assume a safe position on a pad.   I pretty much avoid hiking during PM thunderstorm season (July - mid Aug around here), and wait for the summer rains to fill up the creeks and make the mountains green again.

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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 22 2012, 1:54 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Often wondered how many inches of insulation from a proper ground you would need for a spark that has traveled up to a mile or more to get you.

The best thing is to get in the middle of a crowd of things that are closer to the clouds than you are.  Certainly you'd want not to be anywhere close to a solitary knob or a solitary snag.

I had an uncomfortable experience with high voltage discharge at 12,000'.  I (and family) were walking near the edge of a knife edge cliff that dropped well over a 1000 feet below us.  The west side was relatively gradual and the drop off was immediate and severe forming an almost flat 'ridge'.  I was getting sharp stabs in my back - very much like a needle or a thorn that was stuck in the webbing of my pack and poking me.

My son came to investigate and drew a large spark from my pack.  

We spent the next few instants trying to get as far away from the charged ridge down several hundred feet or so into a pile of very large boulders.   We sat out an amazing display of lightning, hail and down pour with heavy winds a few minutes later.

The clouds were at least 5-10 miles away and were scattered ill-formed shallow thunderheads with black bottoms. Not even any warning or attention getting thunder.  I thought we had at least 30 minutes to follow our route and get to lower altitude before there would even be a hint of a problem.  

Surprised me!

A group of boy scouts were involved in a fatal strike at 10,000'.  They were camped at the edge of a sandy meadow (Sandy Meadow actually) just west of Mt. Whitney.  They were well outside the perimeter of the meadow under trees.  The strike found 6 (as I remember) of them.

In college, I had three friends killed in a shallow, sheltered cave on a glacier in Colorado. About 11,000' I think.  They were near a 13,000' ridge.

I and two climbing buddies were inside a deep depression on the west side of Longs Peak at 13,000'.  We had considerable electrical activity inside with us, including sparks and buzzing, caused by our climbing gear, that would reach a crescendo just before lightning would strike somewhere above/near us.  It was deafening!

A dozen hikers on Mt Whitney a decade ago or so were killed/injured inside the massive summit shelter house with (what turned out to be inadequate) lightning grounding rods.  I believe that summit house is the nearest thing to stars in the lower 48.  I'd not take shelter there even if it were encased in copper.

I was top belaying after a long lead when we got caught in a thunderstorm that was hidden from us by the summit.  We hunkered down with almost 80' between me and climbing partner below me.  He was shocked hard enough that he fell out of his roost and dangled at the end of a 5 foot stub until I could get down to him.  He wasn't 'hurt' but was certainly scared.  I didn't feel a thing except the concussion.

I'm too old for that kind of fun, now.


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 25 2012, 6:50 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

A few years ago I was doing three days in the San Gorgonio area and was on Anderson Ridge heading west hurrying as fast as I could trying to beat a storm to the trail junction leading down to High Camp. (I really needed water and knew the creek was running there.) I was about 10' elevation-wise, but 30-40 ft distance-wise from the actual ridge when lightning struck it. The explosion of sound shocked me more than the blast of light. I literally froze while my brain tried to process what was happening. Then I turned and ran downhill, busting through manzanita and buckthorn until I was a couple hundred feet lower. I found a clearing to spend the night at, but waited to set up the tent until the brunt of the storm passed as I was afraid to mess with the poles right then.

On the bright side I had plenty of water due to the instant streams running all around for a while.


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 26 2012, 1:41 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(cweston @ Mar. 16 2012, 3:50 pm)
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Most sleeping pads make pretty good insulation, as do the heavy rubber soles of hiking boots.

It's never *quite* gotten to that point for me, but I've always figured if lightning were *that* close, I'd pull my pad out of my pack (or my tent, if in camp), squat on that.

Also, if you are with a group, you should split up. If only one of you gets struck, others can care for that person. But if you all get hit...

That's a myth. A pad or boot sole isn't going to provide much resistance to 1 gigavolt of energy. However, it certainly won't hurt and could help if your on the periphery of the affected area.

I've heard that you should try to squat and balance on one foot so that the arc will not travel through you. I don't know how feasible that is though. Seems a better option would be to squat with feet touching.

Here's a SummitPost article:
http://www.summitpost.org/thunder....8


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 27 2012, 5:22 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

From this boys scouts dedicated website:

"The summits of mountains, crests of ridges, slopes above timberline, and large meadows are extremely hazardous places to be during lightning storms. If you are caught in such an exposed place, quickly descend to a lower elevation, away from the direction of the approaching storm, and squat down, keeping your head low. A dense forest located in a depression provides the best protection. Avoid taking shelter under isolated trees or trees much taller than adjacent trees. Stay away from water, metal objects, and other substances that will conduct electricity long distances."

"If you are in the woods, take shelter under the shorter trees."


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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 02 2012, 2:32 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

High elevations are scarier in thunderstorms than low elevations. More people are struck at low elevations. Most of that lightning safety stuff is crap - lightning is too powerful and too random. Fortunately, your chance of being struck anywhere is extremely small.

http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/statistics.htm
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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 03 2012, 2:33 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

It is pretty scary stuff, and geez thanks a lot your stories aren't helping matters! :D

I remember reading an account from a fire lookout ranger back in the 30s in the Mt. Hood National Forest.  He would stand on a glass insulated stool during the worst storms, and the blue webs of St. Elmo's Fire would crackle and caress the walls of the lookout building.  The buildings themselves were grounded, with copper poles and wires going deep into the earth.  Amazing, especially considering the fire lookout era lasted 50 years plus.  Man those guys were tough.

If a fire started, they singlehandedly had to hike to it and try to put it out!  Crazy.

I hope to never wind up in this situation, but some of our camps are up on high peaks (by Old Cascades standards anyway) above 4000'.  You just never know...


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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 12 2012, 11:07 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Rkoscik @ Apr. 03 2012, 12:33 pm)
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It is pretty scary stuff, and geez thanks a lot your stories aren't helping matters! :D

I usually avoid all-day hikes during lightning season in the US (July,early- Aug); may try half day-hikes but I'm off the mountain right after lunch.  Maybe camping low but we get flash floods.  May-June, then mid-Aug to October are my backpacking seasons (except the pacific coasts)


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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 13 2012, 10:29 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

It's not a myth - it's the protocol. Drop all metal objects apart from you, crouch on the pad balancing on your feet to have as little contact as possible... Get 50 feet min. from your friends.

If you're up high and it looks stormy, GET DOWN off the high place if it is still safe to do so. If your hair is already standing on end, drop, crouch and pray. Don't get in a cave, directly under trees, etc.

For an example of what not to do, read Shattered Air, the account of some guys who did everything wrong and were lucky enough to have medical personnel at the bottom of the cables on Half Dome (who happened to be out hiking, and knew better than to go up until the storm passed). That and a really awesome brave helicopter pilot saved a few of them....


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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 14 2012, 11:53 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Where I BP, there's no escaping it.

It's a roll of the dice. If they land "on edges", your time is up.



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PostIcon Posted on: May 14 2012, 1:34 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Of course more people are struck by lightening at low elevations that at high elevations, because there are many more people to be struck at lower elevations. This is like saying that more people in big cities are prone to traffic accidents.

Duh.
:D

The chances of being struck by lightening are very remote indeed. You have a much better chance of being killed in a vehicle accident driving to the trail head.
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PostIcon Posted on: May 14 2012, 2:35 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(tamarac @ May 14 2012, 11:34 am)
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Of course more people are struck by lightening at low elevations that at high elevations, because there are many more people to be struck at lower elevations.

I think they are called golfers (nothing like swinging a big metal rod in a thunderstorm).

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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 13 2012, 5:56 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

About 10 years ago we climbed King's Peak in Utah (13,500ish) - came up the final 900 foot rock pile with our view towards the west mostly blocked.  At the top we saw some clouds in the near distance and discussed getting off quickly.  A guy next to us said he was a weatherman and he thought the first cell looked harmless, but he was worried about the one behind it.  Okay we said, but we're heading down - would you take a quick picture?  As we were posing I heard this strange buzzing sound.  He took the picture just as I realize what the sound means.  I grabbed the camera and we quickly started scampering down the bolders.  Less than 30 seconds later lighting hit somewhere nearby on the ridge - scared the crap out of us but did not hit us.  When I got the photos developed I knew exactly why I had that strange, almost panicked look on my face - he had captured the instant I realized what the buzzing sound meant. Having heard the buzzing once, my goal is to never hear it again!
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 21 2012, 5:43 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Been there before, when I was blessed with Thor's wrath. Why? I didn't get down like I should have. Why did I live to tell the tale? So I could say what other folks may have by now. First, don't get caught in the open. If you are, get down low, on the balls of your feet, in a tucked position. Loose all that metal...all of it, and be away from it. Don't be the high point. Stay that way until the storm moves out, don't get tempted to run for it, like I did. You might just get zapped.

Here is what happened to me. I was in the Boulder Field on Longs Peak, CO, jumping from one boulder to the next in an effort to get to lower ground. As I was jumping, I felt the charge build up. It felt as though my whole body had "fallen asleep", like when a limb falls asleep from bad circulation, but much, much worse (pins, needles and daggers). Then it hit. It was deafening (literally), and the flash of light was so bright, so WHITE that I couldn't see anything else. Since I was mid-air (jumping to my next rock), I crashed when I came down, with no muscles willing to catch my fall. I started to black out, my ears ringing in very bad pain. I fought passing out and won.

There was no warning, really. The charge I felt with the strike. I had blood coming from my ears, nose, and banged up self. The guys I was with said they thought it hit the rock I had just jumped off of. So maybe it was some sort of shoot off of the big one...I just don't know what it was. Pain maybe. I actually walked out by myself and appreciated home when I got there.

If I stayed on my rock, that might have been it, who knows. And I'm pretty certain I did all the wrong things by jumping around to begin with. By the way, I wasn't the high point.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 27 2012, 6:15 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Lisasvoice @ Jun. 21 2012, 5:43 pm)
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By the way, I wasn't the high point.

The victims almost never are. The spark is jumping several miles at supersonic speed, so it often misses the high point, although theoretically that's where it's headed. Your aluminum tent poles and trekking poles don't really matter.

A lot more people are hurt falling off cliffs than getting struck by lightning. So when faced with the choice, watch your footing and play the odds with the lightning. I'm amazed by all the stories I read of people willing to stumble around in the dark on unfamiliar trails because they are afraid they'll be struck by lightning if caught above treeline at 12:01 p.m.
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 10 2014, 11:04 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Backcountry Lightning Risk Management
Actually it's so hard to forecast where and when it will happen like lightning or electrical storm, By understanding the hazards and risks, find out how to avoid it, instead we can reduce the chance for harm. It helped me with alled. Just remember when you being outdoors exposes people to random lightning hazard, no matter what is the situation. No place outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area. Information is taken by this website as below.
http://www.wec.ufl.edu/safety/backcountrylightningsafety.pdf
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 12 2014, 12:58 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Hearing my crampons and ice ax buzzing high up on a glacier, without a tree in the area for many a square mile, was quite a doozy...

Happy to be here today.


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 20 2014, 10:59 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(nilsy @ Jun. 13 2012, 3:56 pm)
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About 10 years ago we climbed King's Peak in Utah (13,500ish) - came up the final 900 foot rock pile with our view towards the west mostly blocked.  At the top we saw some clouds in the near distance and discussed getting off quickly.  A guy next to us said he was a weatherman and he thought the first cell looked harmless, but he was worried about the one behind it.  Okay we said, but we're heading down - would you take a quick picture?  As we were posing I heard this strange buzzing sound.  He took the picture just as I realize what the sound means.  I grabbed the camera and we quickly started scampering down the bolders.  Less than 30 seconds later lighting hit somewhere nearby on the ridge - scared the crap out of us but did not hit us.  When I got the photos developed I knew exactly why I had that strange, almost panicked look on my face - he had captured the instant I realized what the buzzing sound meant. Having heard the buzzing once, my goal is to never hear it again!

I also had to turn back on my way up Kings Peak.  Only a half mile from the summit.  Lightning storm came in, and I turned around.  Some day I'll try that 15 mile approach again.

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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 20 2014, 11:02 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Well, this thread makes me want to spend the summer in my basement.
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I have had many (10?) instances while fishing high lakes where sparks begin jumping between my finger/hand and my fishing rod. Often the storm is still quite aways away.  It makes ya take notice, but the fishing is usually excellent during the "sparking" period, so I normally keep on fishing-
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