Thunder and Lightning on the mountains.

Sadly yesterday a walking party was hit by lightening in the Mamores across from Ben Nevis. One of the party sadly was killed. My thoughts are with the family. There was no forecast of lightening on the forecast. June 2019

From Glencoe MRT after yesterday’s accident :

“But if people do see or hear electrical activity coming towards them then descending immediately from any high ground as soon as is practicable and safe is definitely the best option.”

Good advice.

This time of year weather has a few drawbacks one is the changes can be if thunder and lightning is forecast. I have been scared a few times on the mountains and when abroad in the Alps or the Himalayas there is nothing so scary as a crash of thunder or even worse seeing a bolt of lightning when you are on a ridge.

Nature is hugely impressive and we are such a small part of it when in the middle of a thunderstorm. Sit in a small tent in the big mountains and watch nature show you who is boss in a thunderstorm it is wonderful and frightening.

Not the place to be on the Via Ferratta in the Italian Dolomite's. Not the place to be on the Via Ferratta in the Italian Dolomite’s.

My first experience was on the Fannichs in Scotland on Sgurr Mor a big hill with a sharp ridge, the dog sensed something was up and we all felt the air tingle, then bang!

We were off as fast as we could following the dog and getting of the ridge as soon as possible. Then came the rain torrents of it was scary and we ran for it,

This was mid 70’s and yes it was forecast but we were on a mission to complete the Fannichs Ridge.  

Be aware that the heavy rain that can follow is also very dangerous as the rivers can swell incredibly fast and the cliffs can pour water down them making retreat far more difficult.  

Another time was on Skye in 2000 at the abseil on the Dubhs Ridge just as we completed it the air got very close and the black anvil clouds came over. The main ridge was hit by lightning and the blue flashes ran along its entirety. We had to get off quickly and had an epic getting into the huge corrie and again we had flash floods with the crags just pouring with water.It took hours to get down and we were very lucky. That a day one walker was killed not far from us!

There have been others but I am very aware of lightning and look at the forecast a

What can you do to prevent this – Read the weather forecast and if thunder and lightning is forecast do something else than ridge walking or climbing!

If not good luck!

The interesting abseil on the Dubhs Ridge in Skye not the place to be in a thunderstorm. The interesting abseil on the Dubhs Ridge in Skye not the place to be in a thunderstorm.

30/30 rule

Research shows that people struck by lightning are predominantly hit before and after the peak of the storm. This means that you should be thinking about the proximity of the lightning, not the occurrence of rain. The 30/30 rule provides a good way of ensuring one is sheltering during the most risky parts of the storm. It proposes that if the flash to bang is 30 seconds in length or less you should seek shelter. Staying inside this shelter is advised until 30 minutes past the last clap of thunder. This ensures that any distant strikes at the beginning of the storm (lightning can travel up to 10 miles), or trailing storm clouds at the back of the storm do not take anyone by surprise.

  1. Quickly descend to a lower elevation.
    Descend and find a less exposed place. It’s best if you’re away from the direction of the approaching thunderstorm that is accompanied by lightning.
  2. Don’t be the tallest object around.
  3. To avoid lightning, don’t stand in open areas like meadows or mountain tops. Instead take shelter in a thick forest and avoid taking cover beneath isolated trees or a tree that is taller than nearby trees. If there are no trees around, get down in a depression and squat. Don’t lay down on the ground.
  4. Keep away from objects that conduct electricity.
    These include water, metal objects like climbing equipment, metal fences, and power lines. Take off any climbing sack with an internal or external metal frame and hang all metal climbing gear well away from you.
  5. Wet ropes can carry current.
    A wet climbing rope also makes a perfect electrical conductor for lightning to strike you. In a bad storm, consider untying any wet rope from you. If lightning strikes above, the current can pass down the rope and zap you.
    1. Spread your group out.
      Spread your group out (a minimum of 15 feet) so that if there is a lightning strike there will be team members available to give first aid assistance.
    2. Don’t hide in small caves or under overhangs.
      Sitting under an overhang or in a small cave is asking for trouble since lightning will jump the gap from top to bottom by passing through you.
    3. Move to either side of cracks.
      If you’re climbing and a lightning storm arrives, move away from vertical crack systems whenever possible. Lightning currents travel down cracks.
  6. Avoid ABSEILING in lightning storms.
    Rappelling in lightning storms should be avoided if at all possible. Currents from a cliff-top strike can travel down your wet rope, zapping you. Sometimes, however, ABSEILING  might the only answer, it was for us!
  7. Take care!


About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Enviroment, mountain safety, Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

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