Isolated?!It's an isolated system!
Those words were the response I received on my way down from Arizona's tallest peak after mentioning the clouds that were overhead to another climber on his way up.
My thought after that abrupt exchange was, "isolated or not, it can kill you just the same!"
I started that morning knowing very well what was forecasted. Thunderstorms!!
I got up fairly early that morning and was on the trail at 6am. It started as a clear blue sky with not a cloud to be seen. By the time I had summitted and made my way back down the ridgeline it was an entirely different story altogether.
The clouds had already begun to gather when I reached the 11,400 foot mark on the way up. I thought to myself, "wow, the forecast may actually be right on this time." And that it was!!
Thankfully enough, I was not the only one with a little bit of common sense. There were 2 guys from Phoenix that I talked to at the summit that had a good notion of what was brewing in those clouds as well. Now, the other 10 people or so that I passed on my way down ignored the signs that mother nature was giving them and kept on heading up.
Almost as soon as I was off of the ridgeline and amongst the trees was when I heard the first thunderclap.
Feeling a bit vulnerable!
Now, I am sure that some of you have been caught in a thunderstorm before and that you will probably agree that when you hear thunder booming overhead that it can make you feel a bit vulnerable.
I probably heard 20-30 thunderclaps on the way down. Some did not feel very threatening, while others were extremely loud and close enough that I could almost feel it!
The kind of thunder that makes more of a crackly noise than a boom. The kind that feels like you are in an enclosed room where the sound is distorted and reverberates. The kind that makes your hair stand up on the back of your neck and makes you say to yourself, "I need to get the hell out of here!" I heeded that little voice in my head and made my way down as fast as I could.
I was completely blown away when I reached the trailhead and there was yet another climber on their way up, totally disregarding the obvious thunder and lightning that had been occuring and was still occuring.
This was my first time up Arizona's tallest mountain and my first solo highpoint. It was pretty up there, but I have to say I think I was a little more thunderstruck than awestruck.