Similarly spectacular, but an order of magnitude more perilous, hike number two is in the books for Brian and Kelly in Colorado: Season 2. Objective hazards don’t really eat at me all that much. A long climb in no-fall terrain, for example is cut and dry: be careful and don’t fall. Or storm skiing in the backcountry: stay off the steep slopes or anything attached to a steep slope. Risk mitigated. It’s the stuff that you really have no control over – no effective means of mitigation – that freaks me out.
What to do about lightning… Run for cover I guess? A dubious proposition at best, if above treeline. Or in an an expansive pasture which extends for miles in all directions. I suppose the best you can do is make haste downhill until you find yourself surrounded by old growth where the chance of being directly struck or of being fragged by a Lodgepole Pine whose impedance was a bit too high to transmit 100 million Volts is reasonably remote is really your only recourse.
We checked the living daylights out of the forecast, saw that there was a chance of showers and thunder around 2PM and settled on a turnaround time of noon. We hit the trail at quarter to 9AM, summitted at or before 11AM, took stock of the brooding, dark clouds, and hightailed it out of the alpine. As soon as we hit treeline we were greeted by an unmistakable blue-ish flash and a near-contemporaneous crack. We hit the deck, no doubt far too late to make any difference to mother nature, cinched up our pack suspensions and hauled ass downhill as fast as wet snow and micro-spikes will allow. Our new friend Rolling Thunder followed us downhill for a good mile or so before we began to feel comfortable with the level of risk.
To make a long story short, we were not struck. We did, however, capture some cool pictures of the ominous skies and swirling clouds between running for our lives and wondering whether or not NOAA is to be trusted in the future…