buzzing on snake dike


Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Messages 1 - 20 of total 75 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Original Post - May 6, 2008 - 09:28am PT
climbed snake dike on sunday. when we got to the top of the route, we were getting ready to continue to the summit when someone noticed that (from a sitting position) if you put up a finger, it started buzzing. when we stood up, eye lashes, gor tex hoods starting buzzing. we debated the odds we would ACTUALLY get hit by lightning. none of us knew much about lightning strikes. so we decided to rap snake dike instead of going to the summit and descending the cables. (the next party is going to score a lot of biners and slings)

we all felt me made the right decision. but was curious to any lightning experts out there: what do you think the actual chances of lighting hitting us were if:

 we were buzzing
 the closest sign of lightning looked 5 miles away
 we only heard thunder probably 4 times over 3 hours

just wondering if it was something long like a 1 in 100000 chance or more like a 1 in a 100 chance or less.

Mountain climber
GOP Convention
May 6, 2008 - 09:29am PT

Check with ec, he's been zapped a couple of times according to my memory banks.

Jody's evil twin.

Chalkless climber
the Gunks end of the country
May 6, 2008 - 09:32am PT


Sound travels at 1100 feet per second. Time the interval between flash and thunder, divide by 5 and you get the distance in miles.

Fastest way down is probably best.

Wind on clothing?

Trad climber
primordial soup
May 6, 2008 - 09:34am PT
that weather sh#t moves way too quick up there

one time at phobos it came to us from way behind tenaya peak in a matter of minutes, like 4 minutes tops

being on the cables descent would be about my last choice

we were driving back from bishop on sunday afternoon and could see that system stretching out way up and down the sierras

i would say it's not how much thunder and lightning there was, but how much there might have been

Las Vegas
May 6, 2008 - 09:40am PT
Looks like you did the correct thing
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
May 6, 2008 - 09:44am PT
Paging Werner Braun. Is WB in the Topo?

My guess from your description is that you were in 1/100 - 1/10 bracket. Fairly significant.

May 6, 2008 - 09:50am PT
The one time I heard it I was just below a summit ridge. I decided to downclimb quickly instead of continuing and rapping down the other side. It was good thing too because within minutes the summit was getting zapped. Tough to say if I would have been close enough to get hit but I sure don't regret my decision.

The salty ocean blue and deep
May 6, 2008 - 09:53am PT

I think you made a very wise decision. A friend of mine was hit by lightening and the buzzing wasn't even audible yet--just the hair standing on end. Next thing he knew--boom! On his back. Burnt fingertips, but alive.

And many of those lightning stikes at altitude stories I've read, where someone survives and someone seems it's never too early to get the hell outta Dodge if you have anything abnormal going on. (BTW...buzzing would be abnormal.:-))

Mountain climber
May 6, 2008 - 09:53am PT
The first time I got to the top of Longs Peak in Colorado, my partner said he needed a quick break. There was a small thunder head about 5 miles away. We sat down and began to eat. Then a guy nearby said "Hey, my hair is standing up!" The way he said it indicated he had no clue (like it was something normal that happens due to the altitude).

I yelled that a lightning strike is immanent and we tore out of there. About 10 minutes later there was a lightning strike on the summit.

A few months later, I was on top of another 14er belaying my partner. Static electricity really started to build (things were buzzing). Once he got past the 5th class section, I had him stop and joined him about 80' below the summit. After a while, the static charges dissipated. We then went over the top and headed on down. There never was a lightning strike that day.

I probably would have done the same thing you did and rappelled on down. There was a chance that you could have been hit if you went up and over the top. It is really hard to quantify the odds, but they were high enough.

The other thing you could do is remove all metal from you, and squat on your pack with your feet together. Try to do this off a ridge line – the best spot is in a shallow depression. Lightning sometimes follows the surface of rock, so it is best to avoid cave entrances where you could become part of the path. The idea is to wait out the storm and then go down. Out here in Colorado, the storms are small enough that they blow over relatively quickly, so the wait in safety strategy is reasonable.

Trad climber
May 6, 2008 - 09:54am PT
One time TheReal and I were up on South Crack? on Stately Pleasure Dome - we had finished the route and it was pouring rain with lightning striking the summit. . . we could feel the DIVINE ELECTRICTY through the water running off the dome.


We bolted (pun intended, I guess) off the summit and as we dropped off the side we came across a smoldering snag that had just been stuck, as well.


We RAN to the bus and just sat in there watching the show. . . we were lucky!


P.S. Oooooooooopsie on the dEvine thing!

F10 Climber F11 Drinker

Trad climber
medicated and flat on my back
May 6, 2008 - 09:59am PT
Personally having been ZAPPED twice, I take thunderstorms pretty seriously now. Actually anytime they are near I allmost crap my pants. Probably a smart move on your part.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
May 6, 2008 - 10:02am PT
A few years ago I was in the Wind Rivers. One cloudy/sunny morning we set off to do Wolf's Head, south ridge. The clouds were coming and going, and seemed slowly to be getting thicker. There were two layers, moving in different directions - usually not a good sign.

There was no thunder or lightning or rain that we could hear or see. We got to the start of the actual ridge, the "tilted sidewalk" pitch. I had a very uneasy feeling, and suggested that we retreat off the ridge, have something to eat and drink (it was early), and see what happened. The skies exploded about a half hour later, literally the moment we got to the ground.

Trad climber
May 6, 2008 - 10:03am PT
You were very lucky and made the right quick choice. The static is the negetave side of the charge building up.....

If you will it is calling the positive charge from the skies....

You were in the strike zone

If I'm incorrect please someone ???

Trad climber
new york, NY
May 6, 2008 - 10:04am PT

DEVINE electricity?
Hardman Knott

Gym climber
Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, Ca
May 6, 2008 - 10:07am PT
Chris - with all the crazy shít you've pulled with the basejumping/wingsuit antics, bet
you never dreamed you would ever be gripped doing something like Snake Dike - LOL.

Excellent decision - glad you got the hell outta there!

Gear is cheap, and it will certainly be appreciated by whoever snags it...


Trad climber
May 6, 2008 - 10:07am PT
GreatGooglyMoogly. . .




Trad climber
May 6, 2008 - 10:08am PT
The Strange Energy thread has some good information.

Trad climber
The state of confusion
May 6, 2008 - 10:28am PT
You did the right thing. A climatologist acquaintance of mine knows of instances where people have been struck by lightning from more than 5 miles away. When you hear that buzzing or
feel a shocking in your feet or your hair is standing on end
it's time to MOVE. Get down as fast as possible and make sure
you aren't the 'high point' anywhere, as you'll attract lightning like a tree or tower. I've had a few similar experiences high in the mountains, and I can't tell you how
fast we screamed down trails to get lower. . .

Big Wall climber
Fresno, CA
May 6, 2008 - 10:32am PT
You did the right thing, Chris. I've been zapped before, when the weather was significantly farther than 5 miles away. Lightning can arc over a crazy distance to hit things. Being zapped is NO fun, at all. With all of the things the doc at the hospital told me, I was pretty freaked about the possible results that can crop up in the following months.

Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
May 6, 2008 - 10:38am PT
"The other thing you could do is remove all metal from you, and squat on your pack with your feet together. Try to do this off a ridge line – the best spot is in a shallow depression."

This is what I've heard too. However, if it's possible to get-ot-of-dodge quickly, like rapping, I'd say that's probably the best thing.

The squatting on an insulator thing is for when you're stuck.
Messages 1 - 20 of total 75 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Our Guidebooks
Check 'em out!
SuperTopo Guidebooks

Try a free sample topo!

SuperTopo on the Web

Review Categories
Recent Route Beta
Recent Gear Reviews