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What's the deal with Lightning on a portaledge?
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Jul 20, 2010
got stuck in a lightning storm the other day while sleeping on a ledge doing an aid climb. We ended up rapping off the route because we were lucky enough to have raps in line to escape on, but I was wondering what the deal would be if you had no form or retreat or were too high to risk rappelling. Is there something you need to do to help you not get struck by lightning other than praying and tucking?

Joined Jul 20, 2010
5 points
Jul 20, 2010
I knew a woman back in the 80s who was retreating off a climb when lightning hit the face, and killed her. Wasnt there a climber in 2001 who was on the diamond and was killed by lightning?(and it took several days for rmrg to recover his body) tenpins
Joined Jan 29, 2007
5 points
Jul 20, 2010
lightning sucks, try and avoid it. Keenan Waeschle
From Bozeman, MT
Joined Feb 8, 2010
165 points
Jul 20, 2010
Here are a few things we always try:

Avoid ground current- Insulate yourself from the ground by sitting on your pack or something.

Make yourself as small as possible, but don't lie down.

Get away from all metal, so move your rack as far away as possible.

Keep a wet rope away from your chest as much as possible.

Spread out so that if someone gets hit, others can assist.
From Los Angeles, California
Joined Apr 24, 2008
0 points
Jul 20, 2010
This one is certainly an interesting topic.

When you're on the wall -- I wonder if the p-ledge is just as good as anything. I'm thinking to get away from any vertical crack and fixed lines. I'd take the bolt anchor on the face over the trad anchor in the crack. But would a horizontal traddie be just about as good as being on the face? The overhang may be shelter or more than likely could be the quickest path.

I mean we're taking the "best" of all the bad options; we're sitting ducks. I don't know that any of those type of comments that might work for a splash hit while hiking would do anything for you on the wall.

There is no set formula for lighting, it goes where it wants. Consider it can take itself 10 miles in open air which is a terrible conductor.

Stay at the bolt anchor on the face and be as comfy as you can; at that point, you're protecting yourself from a hypothermic environment by being in the p-ledge.

Or just bail. kinda why light and fast is called light and fast.

I have no idea -- pray, I guess; either for a pain-free quick death, or hope for the best. Getting hit causes all kinds of problems with your body not to mention possibly getting slammed with trauma.
Buff Johnson
Joined Dec 19, 2005
545 points
Jul 20, 2010
In general lighting takes the shortest path, so standing on the top of el cap is much more likely to get you zapped than hanging out in your portaledge a pitch below the summit.

My guess is the your best bet is to sit in the dead center of your ledge. Any lightning strike will prefer to go through the metal frame than through you, but still no guarantees. In a direct hit you should still expect to die, but perhaps you won't die from just a nearby hit.

Best yet, stay home and eat ice cream. You'll die fat, but you won't die from lightning or from a climbing fall.
From Portland, OR
Joined Dec 11, 2007
0 points

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