/ What is best practices in thunderstorms?

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nutme - on 01 Aug 2017

What to do if you are on exposed technical ground to far from any retreat to make it in time?

Was reading this report now and realised I am not sure that would be best to do:
https://www.air-zermatt.ch/wordpress/schwierige-bergrettungen-und-loescheinsaetze-nach-heftigen-gewi...

I was cough in few personally, And so far was able to abseil / run off / hide in a cave before strikes got close. Was always unsure that is the best practise if that would have been not an option. Should I just secure myself to an anchor and make for a comfortable bivi or miserable night hopping it will miss me and nobody dies from cold? Or should party keeps moving down hopping we wont get lost or stuck?
Post edited at 22:59
birdie num num - on 01 Aug 2017
In reply to nutme:

Avoid hopping on technical ground for a start.
I couldn't read the advice in the report, but if that was mentioned as one of the basic measures then apologies
Big Lee - on 02 Aug 2017
In reply to nutme:

This all sounds useful general advise in the outdoors that can be applied to mountaineering where practical.

http://www.wildbackpacker.com/wilderness-survival/articles/surviving-a-lightning-storm/

I was interested to read that removing all metal items is a myth and it's the ones acting potentially as an antenna that are key. Having tent poles overhead doesn't sound ideal on that basis. I'm guessing they would attract a strike to a greater degree than they would dissipate one?
johncook - on 02 Aug 2017
In reply to nutme:

Hold your clip-stick vertically at arms length above your head, whilst holding onto a bolt hanger with the other hand?
elsewhere on 02 Aug 2017
In reply to Big Lee:
> I was interested to read that removing all metal items is a myth and it's the ones acting potentially as an antenna that are key. Having tent poles overhead doesn't sound ideal on that basis. I'm guessing they would attract a strike to a greater degree than they would dissipate one?

Don't be the tallest pointiest sticky-out-iest thing around. Don't poke arms, axes, walking poles etc upwards as you or what you carry is a low resistance path for lightning.

Walking one winter in scotland on typical cloudy weather on broad snow covered ridge. Heard electric buzzing behind us so turned round. Noise still behind - static discharge from ice axes on rucksacks!

Dumped rucksacks (noise stopped) and crouched low. Picked up rucksack - buzzing returned so crouched longer wishing we weren't the only things poking out from the landscape smoothed by snow.

No thunder that day.

Jim C - on 02 Aug 2017
In reply to nutme:

Check the weather forecast and avoid the hills on those days is my first tactic.
If I did go , I would not take poles.

GrahamD - on 02 Aug 2017
In reply to nutme:

I always thought that caves were generally a bad idea as they usually coincide with a sharp feature (the cave entrance) which increased general electrical field strength at that point. I thought the normal advice was to try to hunker down in a shallow hollow somewhere ?
nutme - on 02 Aug 2017
In reply to Big Lee:

Interesting read. Thank you. Something I would ready haven't thought of is "Minimize your contact with the ground and do not lie down flat."
Big Lee - on 02 Aug 2017
In reply to nutme:

> Something I would ready haven't thought of is "Minimize your contact with the ground and do not lie down flat."

Yes, and that's the natural position you can end up in if halfway up a mountain and squashed in tiny tent.
Rigid Raider - on 02 Aug 2017
In reply to nutme:

The best position is not in a cave or a hollow in the ground because lightning will track across wet ground and will jump though you if you happen to be in the way. The best thing is to crouch as low as possible with as few contact points with the ground as possible so that there isn't a route for tracking lightning to pass through you. Throwing away metal implements is futile because they won't increase your attractiveness or affect the outcome.

My sister got struck in a campsite in a valley bottom in Andorra; the bolt went down one tent pole, jumped into the metal frame of the camp bed on which one of the kids was lying, through a big tin of Brillo pads and into the second tent pole to Earth. It happened before anybody even had a chance to scream. The Brillo pads were fused into a smoking mass of soap and melted metal.
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pasbury on 02 Aug 2017
In reply to nutme:
On technical ground I think just hang on and hope for the best. Anywhere else and I always thought that you were best on featureless ground away from any projection or concavity (counterintuitive because you feel pretty exposed!) and then get on all fours and stick your arse in the air to protect vital organs in the chest cavity (strike would go down your thigh).
Post edited at 11:30
Big Lee - on 02 Aug 2017
In reply to pasbury:

> and then get on all fours and stick your arse in the air to protect vital organs in the chest cavity (strike would go down your thigh).

A good time to practice the downward facing dog pose then

Toerag - on 03 Aug 2017
In reply to GrahamD:
> I always thought that caves were generally a bad idea as they usually coincide with a sharp feature (the cave entrance) which increased general electrical field strength at that point. I thought the normal advice was to try to hunker down in a shallow hollow somewhere ?

If you sit in a cave you essentially become the electrode in a spark plug. Many caves are in fault lines through which lightning will track.

Avoiding being a sticky up thing doesn't always hold true - I know someone who was miles out to sea on a fishing trip when lightning started striking the flat calm sea all around them and they were never struck. Still, it is generally good advice not to be sticky up. In terms of stopping or carrying on, I don't think it makes a difference in terms of probability of being struck. What is important is being in a situation where being struck won't cause you to die because of subsequent effects. So, being struck whilst walking along a wide ridge isn't going to kill you if the strike knocks you out or over, however doing the same whilst down-scrambling could well kill you as you'll fall off.
Post edited at 10:44
John Stainforth - on 03 Aug 2017
In reply to nutme:

I've heard that you are better off running rather than walking, because that minimises the contact with the ground - one leg at a time intermittently contacts the ground. Then if you are struck by lightning it passes through one side of the body only, whereas if both feet are on the ground there are loop currents across the body which are invariably fatal. Apparently this is why lightning is so lethal for four-legged animals.
Jonny on 07 Aug 2017
In reply to nutme:
Not being the pointiest thing around is undoubtedly good advice for avoiding a direct strike, but equally important is not to be near the pointiest thing around if you don't want a share of its current either.

I was bivvying directly underneath the spire of the Dent du Geant recently, and caught a massive unforecast thunderstorm. My friend and I had what seemed to us like an overly generous proportion of the current course through our heads and shoulders, and spent the next few hours, unable to descend, in expectation of the next strike, which never materialised in the same place, despite bolts falling very close by.

Great fun, in retrospect. The euphoria when the storm passed and the sun came up was quite something.
Post edited at 11:14
Jonny on 07 Aug 2017
In reply to John Stainforth:

Interesting!
syv_k - on 07 Aug 2017
In reply to Big Lee:

> A good time to practice the downward facing dog pose then

Is that related to the other pose suggested in a thunderstorm, often described as "put your head between your legs, and kiss your arse goodbye"?
Dave the Rave on 07 Aug 2017
In reply to nutme:

Me and my mate were high on the fells one snowy day when we heard an ominous 'squelching noise' as the weather deteriorated. Down we ran as quickly as possible given the conditions. The squelching turned to low voices which followed us all the way to the pub.
On inspection the noises had come from our tranny radio which lived up to its name of the 'vale nil radio'.

rocksol - on 07 Aug 2017
In reply to nutme:

I always tried to descend (knot in rope prussik backup) as quite often in the past this preceded heavy and prolonged snowfall but with modern forecasts and weather patterns it may be OK to sit tight However remember what happened to the team on the summit of the Droites some years ago They sat tight to wait for rescue One dead and the other seriously disfigured I don't know the full details but even in difficult conditions the descent off the Droites is not too hard for someone who,s just climbed any of the North Face routes
doc_h on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to nutme:
Another reason not to lie down flat is because of ground currents from a nearby strike. The very high current from the strike causes quite a high potential gradient in the ground. By laying down across this gradient you could end up with a potential difference of several thousand volts between your head and your feet.

I remember having the same issue many years ago when working with engineers on a 132kV electrical pylon that had developed an intermittent earth fault. We approached it using very small, shuffling steps to avoid too big a PD between our two feet due to the gradient in the ground!
Post edited at 18:12
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wheelsucker - on 23:52 Sat
In reply to rocksol:

As far as I remember the reason they didn't descend the couloir from the breche was the avalanche danger because of the amount of fresh snowfall. In normal conditions the descent may well be easy but they obviously chose to wait out the storm in favour of a very risky descent. Tragic outcome regardless.

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