buzzing on snake dike

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Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Original Post - May 6, 2008 - 12:28pm 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.
TradIsGood

Chalkless climber
the Gunks end of the country
May 6, 2008 - 12:32pm PT
Rattlesnake.

:-)

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?
Matt

Trad climber
primordial soup
May 6, 2008 - 12:34pm 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
Indianclimber

climber
Las Vegas
May 6, 2008 - 12:40pm PT
Looks like you did the correct thing

http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=248659&gsessionid=JScWhwE-bMM
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
May 6, 2008 - 12:44pm 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.
dirtbag

climber
May 6, 2008 - 12:50pm 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.
L

climber
The salty ocean blue and deep
May 6, 2008 - 12:53pm PT
Chris,

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 dies...it seems it's never too early to get the hell outta Dodge if you have anything abnormal going on. (BTW...buzzing would be abnormal.:-))
Tez

Mountain climber
May 6, 2008 - 12:53pm 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.
Blinny

Trad climber
NWMontana
May 6, 2008 - 12:54pm 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.

IT WAS FRIGHTENING.

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.

YIKES!

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

eKat

P.S. Oooooooooopsie on the dEvine thing!

:-)
F10 Climber F11 Drinker

Trad climber
medicated and flat on my back
May 6, 2008 - 12:59pm 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 - 01:02pm 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.
Decko

Trad climber
Colorado
May 6, 2008 - 01:03pm 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 ???
AbeFrohman

Trad climber
new york, NY
May 6, 2008 - 01:04pm PT
Blin,

DEVINE electricity?
Hardman Knott

Gym climber
Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, Ca
May 6, 2008 - 01:07pm 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...


Blinny

Trad climber
NWMontana
May 6, 2008 - 01:07pm PT
GreatGooglyMoogly. . .

FIXED IT!

:-)

eKat
cliffhanger

Trad climber
California
May 6, 2008 - 01:08pm PT
The Strange Energy thread has some good information.
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
May 6, 2008 - 01:28pm PT
Chris
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. . .
Nefarius

Big Wall climber
Fresno, CA
May 6, 2008 - 01:32pm 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.
bluering

Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
May 6, 2008 - 01:38pm 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.
SamRoberts

climber
Bay Area
May 6, 2008 - 02:00pm PT
One time we were climbing one of the long routes on the noth side of Tahqutiz and about half way up it started to drizzle. By the time we topped out it was raining pretty hard and we could see lightning several miles away near the summit of San Jacinto. That was the last thing I remember since a lightning bolt hit the snag I was sitting under while coiling the rope. My partner was knocked to the ground just a few feet from the edge of the face. When he came over to me, I didn't have a pulse. He did CPR (thanks Jim!) and brought me back, but I could barely move. We started down, but I had to stop every couple of minutes and sit down because I was so sore. It was really pouring and when we got to that sort of chimney downclimb thing, and I had to rap down it. It was like rapping through a waterfall! We finally made it down many hours later. The talus field was another epic.. Anyway, good decision, Chris!
AbeFrohman

Trad climber
new york, NY
May 6, 2008 - 02:36pm PT
HA! i didn't even pick up on the type-o.
i was just curious what you mean by divine electricity.
Blinny

Trad climber
NWMontana
May 6, 2008 - 02:48pm PT
OH. . .. DEEEEEEEVINE electricity. . . sorta sounds like something you'd hear on evangalistic TV. . . was spozed to be a funny. . . but what I meant by it was - we could actually feel electrical current running in the water. . . it was CREEPY. With bolts striking the summit, running down the dome, carrying exposed racks was pretty frightening.

YIKES!

eKat
ec

climber
ca
May 6, 2008 - 03:24pm PT
I vote that the correct decision was made.

It is uncanny how quickly the electrical storm can be on you:

There had been afternoon T-showers and you could just about time them, I thought. The Nose of El Cap with Eddie Mo: Of all places, "The Glowering Spot" EdM goes to clip the fixed pin at the belay when a sudden lightning strike hits the summit. The step voltage was on him in that instant. Thinking back, it was a comical/slapstick-looking incident. Ed yelling with the jolt. He was shaken-up, but O.K. A huge rush of water down the rock immediately ensued; we spent a good portion of the night in a river (4" thick).

Up in the Kern we had been working a route and the weather started to deteriorate. We did the right thing and bailed quickly, left a fixed line and started into the woods to the car. Again, some lightning and a deluge. There was so much water, the ground looked as if it was moving. Then it started hailing like a MF. It was so had to see we ducked under this overhanging boulder. Just as I remarked that our location wasn't ideal, WHAM! Our legs were jolted pretty good and the poor dog (who was suffering the hail the most, jumped straight into the air with a, "YELP!"

I was doing Fairview with a couple of cool nOObs. We had a real early start in order to avoid the afternoon boomers. Unfortunately, by 9-10am it was on. It was only a short time like twenty minutes that this storm brewed-up. I was at a ledge right below the summit anchored to a small tree with one of the guys and he was belaying the other. The sound was deafening. It was coming closer and closer. We all prepared for impact, minimizing contact with the rock (as#@&%es and elbows). Lightning must have struck within 100' of us. At the belay, we were literally blown off of the rock to the end of our tie-in (about four feet). For me it felt like Barry Bonds hit a homer off of the lone cheek that had contacted the rock. Below, that guy never felt much of anything. Us at the belay were stunned. I seemed to get it together first, asking the belayer if he was O.K. He stared into space for another ten seconds, then replied that he was. It then started hailing like a MF. We were engulfed in little white bouncing balls. Then, I noticed that both of my arms started to 'do their own thing.' I guess it was like how electro-therapy works when electrodes are attached to an appendage in order to exercise it. Except this was from the shock. My lower arms would contract and my hands would close on their own. It was a bit painful to straighten them out and after I did, they would contract back. It was pretty freaky. This lasted about five minutes. When the hail stopped, so did the storm. The sky almost looked as if nothing had occurred. Summiting on that was very difficult indeed, even when I new it was clear.

"And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt..."

 ec
Stuart Downs

Social climber
San Diego
May 6, 2008 - 05:09pm PT
Having designed many government avionic and ground systems for lightning protection I have the following comments about lightning:

 The average lightning stroke current I(t) is between 20,000 to 200,000 amperes
 It only takes .015 amp to kill someone under optimum circumstances (your wet or dry)
 Therefore, there is more than 1.33 x 10 ^6 to 1.333 x 10^7 times the current necessary to kill you in an average stroke or ~ 1,000,000 one million times more
 Lightning kills ~ 300 people per year in the US
 Lightning can either strike you either directly or indirectly, direct stroke or branch or feeder or through the ground with no strike to your body
 Sometimes there is a warning prior to a strike --- like your hair or furry stuff standing straight towards the sky --- danger your in a strong electric field !
 Never assume you cannot be struck because you are not at a high point
 Lightning current can start flowing without a flash
 Current can flow from the ground up or sky down
 Lightning can occur on a clear sky
 Lightning is not fully understood scientifically
 Lightning occurs when the air breaks down to to an extremely high electric field on the order of millions of volts per meter
Lightning killed my grandfathers brother and split his head open like a water melon when he was sitting under a hay wagon to get out of the rain
 Ball lightning is thought to be lightning plasma and is real
 The temp rise of lightning is greater than that of the surface of the sun
 Airplanes are designed to handle lightning strikes without affecting flight critical functions
 Lightning current is the charge flow of coulombs of charge (electrons) i(t)=dq/dt
 Lightning disrupts radio communications up to 100 MHz or so
 Time changing lightning currents create a changing coulomb electric field, which gives rise to Maxwell's E field and B field and hence a wave travels according to the wave equation
 In North Dakota when a severs lightning storm passed my mom's grandmother put them in bed and sprinkled Holy Water on my mom and her sister. My mom is scared ^%$#@! of lightning
 My brothers house ( a climber)was hit by lightning and the magnetic field as a result of high current flow pulled ferrous (iron) nails out of the wall
 Lightning brought Frankenstein to life
 Lightning was over head when Moses heard "God's" voice from between the Angels on the Arc of the Covenant, which was inside of a tent in Sinai. The area between the two angels glowed. Air will begin to glow with high electric fields (ionization) and there is such a thing as an electrostatic speaker. See Leviticus in the Torah
 Lightning starts forest fires
 This EE thinks lightning is amazing "stuff" --- I like lightning very much, but yes I am afraid of lightning

Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
May 6, 2008 - 05:18pm PT
Smartest thing to do?

Start up the route with YOUR rope and your partner's rack,.... LOL
davidji

Social climber
CA
May 6, 2008 - 05:30pm PT
Sounds like you made a good call.

Wonder if you would have seen a lightning corona if it was dark.

The only time I've heard the buzzing (loud, more of a rumbling), it was at night, and the ground was lit up with a bluish corona.
ec

climber
ca
May 6, 2008 - 05:41pm PT
...yeah, I could use a Corona 'bout now...
Chiloe

Trad climber
Lee, NH
May 6, 2008 - 06:01pm PT
I've had that buzzing, hair-on-end experience a few times, once on the summit of Petite Grepon which just then seemed about the worst place on earth to be standing. We bailed fast, soon afterwards the lightning was flying.

You know those baseball-type caps with a metal adjuster clip in the back? I've owned a few, and tend to wear them backwards on climbs. Once in Utah I was near the top of a buttress when lightning hit the summit. Got shocked right in the forehead, a nasty surprise.
Hardman Knott

Gym climber
Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, Ca
May 6, 2008 - 06:12pm PT
After reading some of these harrowing accounts, I could also use a Corona...
L

climber
The salty ocean blue and deep
May 6, 2008 - 06:31pm PT
"Ball lightning is thought to be lightning plasma and is real..."

Heck yeah it's real!!! It struck the side of the road about 10 feet in front of the El Camino my stepdad was driving...rolled like a happy, firey beachball across the asphalt, and disappeared into the night.

Our hair was standing on end and everything was crackling around us. My stepdad's eyes were the size of chicken eggs--I actually thought it was cool and didn't realize just how close to fried eggs we might've been.
TradIsGood

Chalkless climber
the Gunks end of the country
May 6, 2008 - 06:41pm PT
The closest that I know that I have been to a lightning strike is about 150 feet.

I know the distance because it blew a 6 foot long section (a couple of inches in diameter) of a tree 16 inches in diameter about 20 feet across the driveway. Chips from that explosion landed on the front porch (150 feet from the tree and about 20 feet uphill.

I think just having the lumber hit would have been bad news. Presumably (guess) this was caused by extremely rapid vaporization of sap which causes about 1000 fold expansion in volume - once the pressure has been released.

The glass-break circuit on burglar alarm was destroyed by the pulse.

The house sat on a high point of a ridge at 400 ASL. Many grounded lightning rods. That was a wise investment, I think.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
May 6, 2008 - 06:42pm PT
And I thought Ball Lightning was merely a nickname given Ammon by a one time paramour.
cintune

climber
the Moon and Antarctica
May 6, 2008 - 06:56pm PT
"Arc of the Covenant" that's a good one. Makes perfect sense. Say you're some guy 6,000 years ago or whatever, and you survive a lightning strike. You know absolutely nothing about electric current, flowing ions, etc. and then all of a sudden BLAMMO. Deee-vine activity, that's the ticket. There is a God and he lives in those clouds up there and he is an angry god. Clearly.
Orion

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
May 6, 2008 - 07:13pm PT
I heard this big sound and thought, "whoa that was one massive rock fall, it must be pieces of upper brother tearing off again" I was going to yell up to my partner when I heard another loud booming sound and thought two rock falls in the valley one right after another? hmm something strange there and then it hit me, there must be a thunder storm coming! I told my partner to look behind him up the valley and hurry up and climb faster. We were on the last aid pitch on Leaning Tower west face on Sunday, when I got to the bivy ledge a conference of minds was had,

should we stay or should we go?
If we stay there could be trouble, if we go down the rappels in the dark with a pig it could be double.

We decided to have a look at the top so I did the little bit of fourth class to the top and was hoping to see some trees to take cover under. When I popped my head through the little slot at the top, the end of the climb I could not have been more disappointed to discover that we were in fact on a the top of the tower ridge and the rappels started right there. So we decided to sleep right there on that glorious ledge, we took all the gear and put it on a rope down the back side of the tower and settled in for dinner and hopefully a quite night.

Well the rain was little to none, just a few drops to make us glad we had bivy sacks and the wind was light over night. We woke up on the top of Leaning Tower looking down the valley to bluebird California skies, I guess our call was right this time.

Chris, glad you guys got off safely when you did.

Cheers to spring climbing and unstable weather patterns.

Sam
maestro8

Trad climber
Sunnyvale, CA
May 6, 2008 - 08:26pm PT
Stuart Downs: The average lightning stroke current I(t) is between 20,000 to 200,000 amperes... It only takes .015 amp to kill someone under optimum circumstances... Therefore, there is more than 1.33 x 10 ^6 to 1.333 x 10^7 times the current necessary to kill you in an average stroke...

This is not a linear phenomenon as you're extrapolating here, Stu. A current of ~15 mA causes the heart to begin twitching in such a fashion that it cannot circulate blood properly.

Currents above 30 mA, however, simply cause the heart to clamp down. Barring severe injury, the heart can resume pumping after such a shock. This is why people have survived lightning strikes.
bluering

Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
May 6, 2008 - 08:39pm PT
Sam, all thinks considered, I think you guys made a similarly right-call like Chis did.

Every time I get on Marmot Dome in Tuolumne I have to bail from incoming storms. It's some weird mojo going on with me and that dome. Of course, I've been with the same dude every time, it could be his mojo!

The first time we bailed, right at the base we look over at Lembert and, Kaboom!, huge strike right on top where the walk-off starts.

I wasn't really disappointed about bailing at that sight.
Michelle

Trad climber
Fort Sam
May 6, 2008 - 09:09pm PT
frequently I am buzzing after multiple coronas.

I was up Horse Creek canyon looking up at the Matterhorn when a storm came in fast. No buzzing but really bad feeling as I watched strikes on the talus where I wanted to go. I bailed on that mission.
Hardman Knott

Gym climber
Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, Ca
May 6, 2008 - 09:15pm PT
This thread could really use an Ouch! cartoon about now...
The user formerly known as stzzo

Armchair climber
Sneaking up behind you
May 6, 2008 - 09:21pm PT
Orion,

We were wondering how you fared. Glad to hear that all was well and that you made it back.
Mr_T

Trad climber
Somewhere, CA
May 6, 2008 - 09:34pm PT
I think that someone earlier is right, the charge on the ground is not due to friction by wind/clouds/ions (what causes lightning). The ground charge is caused by capacitance. The charge on the ground is a result of the massive nearby potential that built up in the clouds. Basically the clouds and the ground make a giant capacitor. And you are part of one of the plates. Unlike with any lightning storm you see, the charge build up on the ground can be clearly measured (buzzing, hair standing up). If you can hear a buzz, you're likely to experience an exchange of electrons.

There was a picture in my high school physics text (in the Capacitance chapter) of a person posing on an observation deck at the grand canyon(?). Their hair was standing up due to static charge build up. The caption noted that 5 minutes after the pictures was snapped, lightning killed 4 people standing on the observation deck. The discussion that day in class was along the lines that being able to see a static charge build up is quite rare, and if you can see it, your life is in danger.

(Edit) Forgot to put the odds (given those conditions described originally): 10:1 of being hit. 20:1 of being killed.
Mr_T

Trad climber
Somewhere, CA
May 6, 2008 - 09:49pm PT
Also, that part about comparing current doesn't really apply here. I think the 0.15A statistic vs. whatever for lightning describes a continuous current flowing through a person. If the current from a lightning discharge were flowing down a large copper wire, and you grabbed it, you'd be fried.

Lightning is a capacitor discharging. It's not a uniform flow between plates on the scale of clouds/ground. Hence, some people survive lightning strikes.
tradmanclimbs

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
May 6, 2008 - 10:36pm PT
Isa told me that she watched lightning hit the cables repetedly once while she cowered and prayed. Not suer exactly where she was in relation to the cables but it did leave a strong impression in her mind that she DID NOT WANT TO BE ON THE CABLES with boomers arround. She has been zapped in the Alps a few times as well, lost a few friends that way and totally freaks out when lightening is arround....
10b4me

climber
hanging by a thread
May 7, 2008 - 12:59am PT
glad you are still around Chris
Gobie

Trad climber
Northern, Ca.
May 7, 2008 - 01:22am PT
The first rule about lightning is;

Lightning doesnt know the rules!!
Wack

climber
Dazevue
May 7, 2008 - 02:24am PT

We played "Lightning Lotto" on SD a decade or so ago. The front moved in from the other side ambushing us on a clear day. The first indication that we might have an issue were lightning strikes on Starr King. We were close to the end and decided to time the strikes on SK. At the top of SD we had no strikes closer then SK, the interval between strikes was getting longer and seemed to be moving away. We weren't buzzing so after a half hour strike free, scurried over the top towards the cables. At the Summit, a lone crazed day hiker asked us to take his picture. He was annoyed because we told him 3 guys got zapped and died here. We did a record decent of the lightening rod cables.
scooter

climber
fist clamp
May 7, 2008 - 03:26am PT
Funny, it took all those people to say the same thing. I don't think it really matters too much what you (people) do in nature. We have absolutely no control over what is going to happen, rap or not. I don't think you changed the odds at that point by rapping. Except maybe to rap off the ends of your rope or get struck and have a high angle rescue as opposed to a summit or near summit rescue.

Patrick
The user formerly known as stzzo

Armchair climber
Sneaking up behind you
May 7, 2008 - 06:13am PT
We have absolutely no control over what is going to happen, rap or not.

But we do have control on whether or not we're near it when it happens ;-).
leinosaur

Trad climber
burns flat, ok
May 7, 2008 - 11:55am PT
Good call CMac -



The above is a well-written and informative read about a party in the 80's which paid dearly for making the wrong choices.

If you're buzzing with electricity, you are very much in the wrong place . . . your life is definitely worth a few 'biners.

On the other hand, lightning-struck ropes tend to disintegrate!

A quick Snake Dike downclimb, anyone?
rmuir

Social climber
the Time Before the Rocks Cooled.
May 7, 2008 - 12:50pm PT
OK, SamRoberts... You said,"One time we were climbing one of the long routes on the noth side of Tahqutiz" (sic)...

Years ago, we had just blasted up The Step on Tahquitz and encountered rain on the summit pitch coupled with one or two HUGE thunder claps. Running across the summit boulders, we encountered two guys in exactly the situation you describe.

As I recall, you were hunkered-down near a boulder and a tree. There was evidence of a lightning strike hitting the tree and then arcing to the boulder near where you got hit. Your partner was quite shaken, and said that your heart had stopped; we had gotten to you just as you were revived. You, as might be imagined, were totally out of it.

The descent was epic, but we did eventually get you down to town.

So... Was that you?

(Can't remember who I was with on that... Maybe Steve West?)

My fuzzy recollection of Freedom of the Hills says that you should never take shelter in a recess because of arcing.
Chiloe

Trad climber
Lee, NH
May 7, 2008 - 01:24pm PT
I recall the story of a couple of guys who were literally blasted out of their tent, one night below Mt. Alice. For some reason that story seemed spookier than the ones where folks got zapped standing up.
Nor Cal

Trad climber
San Mateo
May 7, 2008 - 01:28pm PT
I worked with a guy named Bill Pippey, it is his friend that are featured in the Shattered Air book, infact his picture is in the book. Bill does not even like to looks at pictures of HD. In our Yosemite confrence room we have a picture of HD with lightnening hitting it, Bill always had his back to the picture when in meetings...
SamRoberts

climber
Bay Area
May 7, 2008 - 02:20pm PT
Hi Robs, That very well could have been me. I do remember a couple of guys there when I came to. I also remember the look on their (your?) face and that scared me as much as anything! You're right, I was pretty out of it on that descent, in fact I don't remember that you guys were with us. That was in 1981or 1980. Anyway, thanks a lot Robs!

BTW, how is Steve West doing?
Bart Fay

Social climber
Redlands, CA
May 7, 2008 - 02:36pm PT
I have often questioned the risk of carrying 'metalic' gear relative to lightning.
Its not like you have a 10ft steel rod on your head and a cable out your arse connected to the earth's core.
What you probably have is shoes with insulating soles and aluminum decorations on a gear sling.
Would holding a Sierra Cup really make you a better path to ground than just being wet and standing in the open ?
Wives tale perhaps ?
Shingle

climber
May 7, 2008 - 02:47pm PT
Based on anecdotal evidence, lightning seems to strike crucifixes and medallions hanging around people's necks, and often leaves a burn shaped like the medal. This would seem to suggest it is not a wives tale, unless the wives were pretty well versed in lightning behavior.
Bart Fay

Social climber
Redlands, CA
May 7, 2008 - 03:16pm PT
Seems like the necklace burns could be attributed to varied resistance at that spot creating the heat to burn.
I'm not convinced that the necklace attracted the lightning. But, what do I know ?
I would also not be surprised that if you were soaked and standing in an open field, that the
lightening would hit the metal necklace first.
Of course, that does not mean that it made you a more favorable target.
rmuir

Social climber
the Time Before the Rocks Cooled.
May 7, 2008 - 03:19pm PT
SamRoberts said, "That was in 1981or 1980. Anyway, thanks a lot Robs!"

You got it. Must have been either before the Fall of '79 or after the Summer of 1981, since I was out of the country those two years. And, yes indeed... You were pretty shattered. Fortunately the rain let up quickly, otherwise the descent would have been even more miserable. Steve West, BTW, is still kicking; we just saw him last month at the JT reunion.

The most spectacular thunder I ever heard was in the early morning in Grenoble.fr. The percussive impact collapsed the lungs and RANG throughout the whole valley.

Once, in the Needles.ca, Mike Graber and I had nearly topped-out on one of those marvelous fangs of rock when we experienced the whole nine yards. The loud buzzing, the hair standing on end, the vivid smell of ozone, and the lightning striking everywhere around us. Unfortunately, the rap slings were on the OTHER side of the summit! Our solution (quite stupid, in retrospect), was to strip of every piece of metallic gear, tie it onto the end of 50 m of perlon, dash across the summit, and then haul the gear over the top thinking we'd be well-insulated. Soaked to the bone, but we survived...

Jefe'

Boulder climber
Bishop
May 7, 2008 - 04:41pm PT
http://www.lightningsafety.com/
scooter

climber
fist clamp
May 8, 2008 - 12:39am PT
In 2000 or 2001 while I was working for YOSAR in Tuolumne, there was a group of 5 or so people who summited Cathedral Peak with a storm approaching. They decided to rap and ditch some gear so they wouldn't have so much metal on them. They got blasted blow the summit sans gear. One guys heart stopped, they were all in shock, from the shock. I could see where the lighting hit one guy in the shoulder/chest area and exited around his lower back. Then it went on to arc around all his partners. What did they do wrong? Got rid of the metal gear and descended from the summit, but they still got struck. High school soccer players get zapped with some frequency, no summit there, no cams, no 'biners. Maybe bad choices to be on the field in questionable weather. Does lightning only strike the absolute summit of Half Dome? I think not.
bluering

Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
May 8, 2008 - 01:37am PT
I wonder if it has do do with our internal chemistry. The electrolytes, salinity, and small electric pulses in our bodies.

Just thinking out loud.
originalpmac

Trad climber
May 8, 2008 - 04:17am PT
i was lucky enough to get buzzed a few times in a row (indirectly through the rock) a couple of rappels below the summit of Bugaboo Spire. It was probably on of the scariest moments in my life. Our ice axes on our back were all humming, we took off all our metal and squatted in lightning drills, and contemplated death. There was no where to go. Then to top it all off, after the storm passed, we hear this rumbling getting louder and louder, and we are all like, great, now we get killed by rock fall, sweet. Epic.
kevin hansen

Big Wall climber
Kanab, UTAH
May 8, 2008 - 11:43am PT
Imagine if the buzzing were something else...
I found this on a Utah Forum.

http://www.bogley.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=11782

Couldn't resist
Kevin
wbw

climber
'cross the great divide
May 8, 2008 - 11:57am PT
I just want to agree that the book "Shattered Air", is very well written and quite informative. The realization that I have now is that lightning is a much greater threat to all of us, especially those of us that spend as much time as possible outside, than I previously thought.

Having to make a decision about how to handle that threat, a situation which started this thread, is something we should all be prepared to do.
The user formerly known as stzzo

Armchair climber
Sneaking up behind you
May 8, 2008 - 02:48pm PT
I wonder if it has do do with our internal chemistry. The electrolytes, salinity, and small electric pulses in our bodies.

Haven't researched it much, but rumor is that some people are more likely to get struck than others, and that people who get struck will then have a higher chance of getting struck in the future.
bluering

Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
May 8, 2008 - 03:22pm PT
Electricity or electrons will surge through the past of least resistance. They will also follow other paths with more resistance but in fewer numbers. The lower the resistance, the more current flow (more electrons flowing).

A lightning strike from above will follow the path of least resistance to the Earth (ground). Wearing rubber shoes only increases your resistance to earth ground, it doesn't eliminate it.

I'd imagine that trees are struck so often because they are literally rooted into earth ground even though they're not a great conductor. Their height plays a part but it probably has more to due with a good ground connection.

Due to humans being a better conductor than trees, shoes or insulation from earth ground is pretty key to not becoming a human resistor. If you stood next to a tall tree but were barefoot, I'd bet the lightning would choose your signal path over the trees.

This is what leads me to belive that our chemistry is what attracts the flow of electricty. It has to because electrical signals need to constanlty flow between our brain and neural network. Electrolytes and salinity in our bodies provide the signal path for these essential signals.

It's still good to insulate yourself from earth ground in a storm because the better the insulation, the less current flow through your body. The difference between getting badly shocked and getting fried like a bug in one of those bug zappers.

Carrying around a rack full of metal doesn't help either.
tolman_paul

Trad climber
Anchorage, AK
May 8, 2008 - 10:22pm PT
I think the path lighting takes isn't so much the path of least resistance, rather it is the path of highest potential between the clouds and the ground. If it were merely the path of least resistance it would be a simple simple shortest straight shot between the cloud to the ground, but we all know lighting strikes aren't nearly so orderly.
TradIsGood

Chalkless climber
the Gunks end of the country
May 8, 2008 - 11:06pm PT
Actually not all metal is bad.

If you are worried about lightning, you need a golf club in your rack. Not just any golf club.


It has to be a one iron.













As Lee Trevino noted,




"Even God can't hit a one iron."
scooter

climber
fist clamp
May 9, 2008 - 03:04am PT
Do people with hemochromotosis (sp) need to be especially careful?
the Fet

Knackered climber
A bivy sack in the secret campground
May 12, 2008 - 06:23pm PT
Orion

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
May 12, 2008 - 08:22pm PT
That's a pretty sweet picture, thanks for adding it.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - May 13, 2008 - 02:56am PT
that photo is awesome and amazing for a few reasons. one of which is that it looks like the strike is happening not at the top, or at the cables. its striking near the very spot we were hanging out for 45 minutes a few hundred feet above the top of snake dike trying to decide to go down or not... next time ill go faster!!!!
the Fet

Knackered climber
A bivy sack in the secret campground
May 13, 2008 - 12:38pm PT
Sorry I couldn't resist... the photos a fake.

I found it on google Earth, some amazing shots around Yosemite.

Here's another photoshop version

However I just read a story about a lightning strike in British Columbia Magazine about Bugaboo Spire in the 1950s or so. Chris you did the right thing getting out of there. Same thing was happening to them, energy all around. Then BAM!. Two dead. Epic retreat etc. The energy travels along the surface of the rock not into the mountain.
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