Caught under Thunder Storm

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 37.63440°N / 118.2547°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Jun 18, 2004
I was caught under a thunderstorm on the way back from White Mtn and it scared me to death. I didn't get rained on-only snowed on. Also, I only saw lightning in the clouds. I hiked/ran up on the road this day and started from Patriarch Grove Fork. The weather was fluffy cloud Thunderheads/blue sky ..all the way to the summit.. About 10 minutes after leaving the summit-this was about 4:15pm, the weather got dark very fast. I heard some thunder claps over the Dry Springs Valley and I knew I was deep sh*t since the wind was heading toward me. I ran down to the saddle and began hiking up to the ridge down there. The thunder was now combining from the east with thunderheads over White Mtn. The thunder was now coming from behind me and in the direction I was headed. The rumbling over White Mtn was continuous. By this time I was just praying for peace and hoping my life was going to be spared. The marmots saw my situation and crawled into their safe homes while keeping their eyes on me. I ran on the ridge down toward the Observatory. A couple Bighorn sheep ran across the road and down a canyon to the west that seemed clear and I considered going down there. I continued running on the road. About 15 minutes later, the storm headed in the direction the sheep had gone. The thunder claps scared the living hell and heaven out of me as I ran. I just ran. No pictures, no listening to CD, no stopping for numbers, GPS or anything-just go. The wind was coming at me from the south, and it was calm clouded-neutral gray there and I just continued into the wind hoping the storm was leaving (fast). I hiked up to the Observatory from the bottom of the field just north of it and then ran down to the Barcroft. I considered going to Barcroft and asking for a ride to Patriarch where my Bronco 2 was parked. However, the wind was facing me and the storm seemed to be behind me. Calm gray skies were ahead. I felt I could run to the gate. I continued down running to the gate. Along the way, everything from religion to accepting my fate-whatever it might be.. crossed my mind as I listened to the ever distant thunder. At this point, I realized that the danger was decreasing and for the first time felt the extreme fright-a hollow feeling in my torso. I got to the gate, and started hiking. The heard some more thunder overhead which of course scared me. I ran from Lamb camp to the canyon near Piute Peak and hiked from there. The last thunder was heard here, and then it started to snow. It dumped snow as I hiked the next 40 minutes to Sheep Saddle. No thunder now-just snow. A van passed me down from Barcroft and the driver waved (my what-if ride) and I waved back. I was safe now-only innocent snow-like Mammoth. The snow stopped at Sheep Saddle and I ran down to Patriarch Grove Fork to arrive at my vehicle safely. I was 19:18. Whew. The sun was out here and lighting up Campito Mtn and other areas. I visited Patriarch Grove with peaceful wildflowers and all. The clouds were spectacular on the way out. In retrospect.. * I gotta get off the mountain in the summer by about 2pm or earlier. * I maybe could have seeked shelter at Barcroft Station and perhaps gotten a ride from the van that had passed. * Of the weather forecasts I had checked online: -NOAA -AccuWeather -Video Weather -Wunderground -Weather Channel Only one was accurate for the general area of Bishop. That one was none other than the NOAA. The NOAA was predicting Thunderstorms for this day a week in advance and kept with their prediction. Although all the others didn't have anything more than partly cloudy in their forecast. AccuWeather had 3% thunderstorm possibility for the Owens Valley and 25% for Mammoth. The NOAA is the main weather source and provides the basic weather for all the other services. NOAA is definitely the one to watch. During last winter, I skied at Mammoth, and AccuWeather was pretty darn accurate. This time however-it was the NOAA.. * There are relatively inexpensive lightning detectors on the market which are of help. One is "Strike Alert". After completing my frightening experience, I may conclude this: * It was a life-transforming experience. It wasn't so much a religious experience. I wasn't scared out of my wit. I kept a clear enough head to just keep going. I never froze out of fear. It was life transforming because it made me see that my life is very fragile. When the thunder came in, it was a maniac on the loose. Nothing could stop the fury. It did what it wanted to and I needed to leave. The beast left me alone this time. It was a life-transforming because compared to this experience, little problems are so minor compared to the huge volume of force the thunder/lightning exerts. Now, in retrospect, I feel lucky to be alive. Perhaps I was always safe, although, I really feel happy to be alive. To me, it wasn't a "charge" to feel fear or anything. I don't enjoy fear. I personally don't "get into" that kind of situation. I intend to be more careful from now on.


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darkmark - Mar 30, 2008 2:46 am - Hasn't voted


amazing that the onset of inclement weather can happen so fast


RenoGregory - Aug 11, 2016 2:42 am - Voted 8/10

Dang Son

I have experienced something similar when my buddy and I went to sleep on Badden Powell with clear skies and woke up in a ice storm... Not fun, but we were definitely fine and it was definitely an experience.

But you sir experienced it on a whole 'nother lever. I can only imagine how immense and overwhelming it must have been up there that day!

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