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Thread: Lightning

  1. #1
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    Default Lightning

    Looking at hiking Segs 21-22-23-24-25, since much of 21-24 is above treeline, and storms are almost a daily occurance, just what does one do to stay safe from strikes... Everything I have been taught tells me to never be above tree line during storms.... Suggestions please! Thanks.

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    This would be in July! Thanks.

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    If you have no chance to get below treeline, one option is to pitch your shelter and insulate yourself from the ground with your sleeping pad until the storm cell passes. Eat something and rest for an hour or two. Try to plan the next day so you hike the most exposed areas before noon.

    Above treeline, you're in a good position to watch storm cells develop and you can track their progress. You'll know when something is going to pass safely behind you, or when something is so far away you can't even hear the thunder. When lightning is approaching you, a five second delay between light and sound is getting too close, in my opinion. If you're approaching a peak or ridge from below and can't see the storm develop, turn around and go back down.

    If you haven't yet, read up on general lightning safety. Keep in mind that lightning may strike well ahead of rain. Hail is a bad sign. Never seek shelter in a shallow cave or depression, or under the tallest tree around. Etc.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

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    If you are experiencing daily storms, look for a pattern. The two recent fatal lightning strikes in RMNP happened at 1:30PM and 3:30PM. That is typical timing - plan your hike so you are not on top of a ridge when this time rolls around. All the segments you mentioned - 21 thru 25, have major undulations and there are low spots where it is possible to camp with relative safety.

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    When I get caught in lightning I hike a LOT FASTER.............figure if I do get hit I don't want to be slacking.

    Seriously, my experience has been mostly in the woods and occasionally at higher elevations. Typically just keep on hiking and keep a very close eye on the storms, proximity of lightning, if it ever gets that close I will stow my pack, get 100 feet or more away from it and crouch down or find a low spot to ride it out.

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    This is a group type hike, so Im not totally in control... timing wise we will start 6-7am each day, at beginning of segment, and finish out 16-18 miles later, for me, at 1.8-2mph, thats 9-12 hours later, so trying to figure a plan for what to do when storms start to appear, I know on seg 22 we will be at the highest spot (highest spot on CO trail) later in the hike, certainly mid afternoon... of course, with luck its dry (haha) but trying to get in my head what to do... perhaps the undulations are enough to safely get out of harms way... also supposed to camp at Carson Saddle which would be bad if night storms appear.

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    Quote Originally Posted by garlic08 View Post
    .. insulate yourself from the ground with your sleeping pad ...
    Lightning makes it through a mile or more of air... an inch of foam has no effect

  8. #8

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    Last place with trees before it all goes high is at about V090M. Just past Carson Saddle (V172TH) you will begin following Lost Trail creek which runs several hundred feet below the trail. Along the creek are good places to camp and there is water there as well. A bit further on, the lake at W055XL is fairly protected, and below the trail in Cuba Gulch at W099XT is also good. If you camp in that one, it is about 14 miles to good camping in the trees at Elk Creek. (We had trail crews in both of the latter two locations when we were building the trail)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Deadeye View Post
    Lightning makes it through a mile or more of air... an inch of foam has no effect
    It helps isolate from the electrical "ground effect", so actually, it does, allegedly at least.

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    I grew up Catholic. Curiously, when lightning is nearby, knowing the words to the Hail Mary comes back to me in full force.
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    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_rob View Post
    It helps isolate from the electrical "ground effect", so actually, it does, allegedly at least.
    +1 on that. There was a family that got struck by lightning while camped in the boulderfield on Uncompahgre Peak a few years back. One was hurt, 3 were ok, and the dog was killed. The dog was the only one not on a pad. While the pad may not protect from a direct strike, it will help with the ground current.

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    so if we are taking the Collegiate West route, just plan to get to the passes before noon, and get down quickly to make camp. At least that is what we are planning to do.

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    http://www.wildbackpacker.com/wilder...ghtning-storm/

    http://hikingdude.com/hiking-lightning.php

    Always be aware of weather patterns in the area you are hiking. Learn what different clouds mean. Check the route ahead prior to hiking it for exposure. Use the 30/30 rule. Don't leave safe shelters(a tent is not a safe shelter), large forested areas(go up to ridgelines and summits, enter open fields, shelter near bodies of water, etc) if you hear thunder. I don't proceed upwards into exposed areas or leave the protection of large forested areas if the 30/30 rule is broken. Lightning can strike up to 10 miles away from where you first see it by traveling horizontally. DON'T be the tallest thing in an area. Don't shelter under the tallest thing in an area. I've broken all these pieces of advice. It wasn't pretty several times getting caught in lightning storms striking near me while on ridgelines and in open areas. Just as the article says my fingers tingled and my hair stood on end while being momentarily blinded by the flashes as my positive charge attracted the negative ionic charged lightning. I though I was going to be struck. On a few long ridgeline above treeline stretches, once on the CDT in CO, I was caught in fast moving in lightning storms. I crunched down atop my dirty clothing bag(two feet on bag) in a dry ravine surrounded by large boulders with my backpack(it had metal in it) off away from me about 50 yrs with my head between my clenched hands behind my head as the lightning repeatedly struck the ridge where I just was. This may sound strange but I can smell something in the air when lightning is about to strike or lightning risk is high. This is going to sound, perhaps even stranger, but I can often detect, not really sure how, electrical and electromagnetic charges in things including the air.

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    Quote Originally Posted by garlic08 View Post
    If you have no chance to get below treeline, one option is to pitch your shelter and insulate yourself from the ground with your sleeping pad until the storm cell passes.

    If you haven't yet, read up on general lightning safety. Keep in mind that lightning may strike well ahead of rain. Hail is a bad sign. Never seek shelter in a shallow cave or depression, or under the tallest tree around. Etc.
    Quote Originally Posted by Deadeye View Post
    Lightning makes it through a mile or more of air... an inch of foam has no effect
    +1

    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_rob View Post
    It helps isolate from the electrical "ground effect", so actually, it does, allegedly at least.
    The only safe shelter is hard shelter. I would not want to do a real world test... even in a hammock. What is missing here is something called di-electric breakdown... there are components of electricity or energy that can pass thru any insulator... but in a no win moment I would probably do the same thing to survive.

    Quote Originally Posted by bearcreek View Post
    +1 on that. There was a family that got struck by lightning while camped in the boulder field on Uncompahgre Peak a few years back. One was hurt, 3 were ok, and the dog was killed. The dog was the only one not on a pad. While the pad may not protect from a direct strike, it will help with the ground current.
    Interesting... do you have a reference for that? I would like to read more.

    http://adventure.howstuffworks.com/h...e-a-storm4.htm
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    [QUOTE=Dogwood;
    This is going to sound, perhaps even stranger, but I can often detect, not really sure how, electrical and electromagnetic charges in things including the air.[/QUOTE]

    Could be the ozone that gets created in an electrical storm. http://science1.nasa.gov/science-new...asa/lis/lis_5/

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    want a lightening alarm? a micro AM/FM tuned to AM and on a weak station... the crack will pop the speaker... average about 30 miles and on a strong station thats close will crack on five miles...

    Or this...
    http://www.northerntool.com/shop/too...FUcV7Aod0VQAmg
    Dogs are excellent judges of character, this fact goes a long way toward explaining why some people don't like being around them.

    Woo

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    Here's an Application I like, sadly I need wifi to use it on an ipod...but not fer long, Socks (yes, why yes I did just refer to myself in the third) is coming into the 21st Century and getting his sons hand-me-down I phone (doubt damn time). Anyway, here the App, it has a lightning strike indicator with it.

    Weather Bug

    http://cms.weatherbug.com/Affiliate/...Fc3m7Aodw2UABQ

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by rocketsocks View Post
    Here's an Application I like, sadly I need wifi to use it on an ipod...but not fer long, Socks (yes, why yes I did just refer to myself in the third) is coming into the 21st Century and getting his sons hand-me-down I phone (doubt damn time). Anyway, here the App, it has a lightning strike indicator with it.

    Weather Bug

    http://cms.weatherbug.com/Affiliate/...Fc3m7Aodw2UABQ
    o'coarse you'll prolly want the mobile version for your phones not this desk top version...any way check out weather bug.

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    [QUOTE=Dogwood;This may sound strange but I can smell something in the air when lightning is about to strike or lightning risk is high. This is going to sound, perhaps even stranger, but I can often detect, not really sure how, electrical and electromagnetic charges in things including the air.[/QUOTE]

    Dang right, Dogwood. I recall topping out on the CT, just below San Luis Peak, thinking about taking the trip up. I gazed west from that ridge across the huge expanse of bowl. The trail looked like a long, winding brown thread nestled on the mountainside. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. I decided to trek on. That bowl may be a half mile, or a mile across... It's big!

    When I got to the next ridge I was surprised to see another huge, north-facing bowl. The only difference was that there was a pine forest on the west side... Maybe a mile or so away. I had a bit of lunch and stared off, noticing a few wispy clouds over the western most ridge, above the pines... Above the Divide. Half way across that bowl, I looked up and saw dark, fast moving clouds pouring over that western ridge. The visible, open sky to the north was also rapidly filling with what can only be described as storm. My heart was racing. I was racing, trying to get into what ever cover I might find in that pine forest. All I could think of was when I toured the basement museum on Mt Washington and saw how many people died up there because they were caught in sudden storms.

    I think my ears are still ringing from the almost instantaneous lightening bolt that sounded like an enormous zipper being yanked open quickly. Maybe better described a continuous "crackle." The next instant there was a deafening crack/zap thunder blast. It felt like a bomb. Man, that was close. Then hail hit me in earnest. I felt like I was being pelted by countless marbles shot from slingshots as I entered the forest looking for any cover. I threw down my hiking poles and dived under the low hanging branches of a pine tree. I sat on my pack on the leeward side of that tree and spoke out loud to it saying it had withstood storms for dozens, of years and I begged it to not fail me now. Dogwood... I could smell the lightening. Perhaps it was the ozone remnant, but I could smell it.

    Then came the snow, fast and heavy, joined by several more lightening bolts and ear drum-shattering-thunder. I looked around for anyplace where I might set up my tent. The only level place was actually on the trail. Everything else was too steep. I waited. After about an hour, the snow slackened. As the clouds cleared, I could see all the way back to the snow-packed ridge on the east side of that bowl. Interestingly, although everything was covered by several inches of snow, the trail itself stood out like a beacon... A smooth line of white up and over the next western ridge, up and over the Divide. I decided to go for it.

    Once over the ridge, it was a long gently sloping trail down to the pass above Creede. Before long, I was out of the snow. When the trail finally leveled out, there was sign indicating the way down to Creede. I took it. An hour or so later I hit the gravel road and was picked up by a couple who were out driving, enjoying the autumn colors. The sky had cleared enough so that the high, snow-covered mountains off to the north and east were visible. The aspen were stunning. The couple marveled at the beauty, but warned me the forecast was for more storms that night. An hour after that, I was eating green chili and drinking beer at one of Creede's local watering holes. The motels were full, but I got permission to pitch my tent on someone's back porch. Thankfully it had a roof overhead. That night, the storm raged on with heavy rain, snow in the higher elevations and seemingly non-stop lightening. My CT hike was over.

    I am also saddened by the deaths of the two individuals who were killed by lightening in Colorado this past week. Lightening and concerns regarding fast-moving storms are often discussed here on WB. Common sense, a watchful eye, preparations and sometimes just plain luck are key ingredients to survival.
    When you get to those unexpected situations in life where it’s difficult to figure something out, just ask yourself, “What would MacGyver do?”
    See ya!
    Rickles McPickles

  20. #20
    Garlic
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    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_rob View Post
    It helps isolate from the electrical "ground effect", so actually, it does, allegedly at least.
    This is correct. When lightning contacts earth, charge flows through earth and causes current at a distance from the point of contact. When current flows through a resistor, there is voltage. Earth has high resistance, therefore high voltage across a given distance. When the "step potential" (voltage across the distance of your stride) exceeds hundred of volts, as is common with lightning currents, anything touching the ground in two points across that distance is in trouble.

    Nothing will protect you from a direct strike. But "step potentials" of hundreds of volts can be survived with a dry foam pad.

    Most decent literature will also tell you if you are caught in the open to crouch with your feet together. Same reason.

    I suppose if you run, you're in good shape because you're only touching the ground with one foot at a time. That's probably not on your mind if you're running away from lightning, though. And running downhill with a backpack introduces other risks.

    I used to design substation grounding grids that reduced step potentials to protect workers exposed to high ground currents during power line faults. Sometimes we provided insulating platforms at switch handles. That's why I feel a foam pad is sometimes the best place to be in a risky situation.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

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