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The DAILY DIRT - The nitty and the gritty of outdoor news

Hiker struck by lightning, forgets about it

Minnesota hiker gets struck by lightning on Colorado's Longs Peak, spends a night on the mountain, and can't remember any of it

In case you need a reminder to get off high peaks in Colorado before noon, there's the story of Minnesota hiker Brandon Baker. The divorced father of two summitted Longs Peak by late afternoon on Wednesday when (surprise) clouds rolled in and a ferocious storm began. Baker took shelter underneath a rocky ledge with plans to wait the storm out.

Bad idea: Baker woke up a whole day later, with tingling in his fingers and toes and no memory of what happened. It was only when another camper looking for him pointed out his fist-sized head wound that he realized he'd been struck by lightning.

Baker is now recuperating at a Denver hospital, and says "right now, everything is normal." Doctors say he could eventually experience memory problems from the strike.
"I would go right back up there tomorrow if my legs didn't feel bad," he said. "It's amazing once you get up there. You just don't understand until you get to the top of a 14,000-foot peak."
Tough or stupid? Share your thoughts (and your own lightning close-calls) in the comments section below.

—Ted Alvarez

via Star-Tribune

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nikki o
Aug 19, 2010

hiking north/south loop in mt. charleston near las vegas. no clouds in the sky! as soon as we were at treeline a thunderstorm rolled in over the mountain. my husband and i had to sit between trees and a cliff to take cover about 300 feet from the summit. storm passed and we made it up. the next day we were supposed to summit another nearby peak. another storm rolled in. about 1000ft. below that summit we decided to head down instead of dealing with another storm. soon after the storm was right over head. after actually "feeling" the electricty and lighting right by us we took shelter under a fallen tree. it started to hail marble sized drops for 30 min. we hurried down and made it down alive. we got lucky.

D_Harry
Aug 11, 2010

Very lucky to survive. Going in the Colorado mountains during lightning season, one needs to get up early and get down before the storms start rolling in.

Richard
Aug 11, 2010

All of you posting the above know the 14er rules. You have to think about people doing this from out of state. They think they are just going on an exciting hike. So before calling what he did as stupid, lets cut him some slack and hope people can learn from this. As long as people are climbing Longs, we will continue to see them starting at 8am and wearing flip flops! Even the experienced have lapse of judgement. Anyone remember the Talus Monkey??

Sherry Lee
Aug 10, 2010

I was just up Longs Peak July 25th and saw a storm coming in from the SW. My partner and I hurried back down the trail. It is a beautiful place. Sure feel sorry for this guy. I always thought that rubber tires on cars or bikes would insulate you from a strike. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? I know most bicycle shoe clips are metal, maybe that had something to do with this accident?

JH
Aug 10, 2010

headed to longs tomorrow, hope this isn't some kind of foreshadowy omen...

Rick
Aug 10, 2010

I summitted Longs Peak last Sunday. I started with a group at 1:30 AM from the trailhead and got to the top of the peak before 10 AM. We stayed up at the top until about 10:30 AM but noticed some clouds gathering way, way off in the distance to the south. When we got to the Trough, we got hit by a hailstorm that lasted something like 20-30 minutes. After the hailstorm ended, I noticed very dark clouds approaching from the south again. A short time later, we could hear loud thunder and see lightning in the approaching clouds. My group and I decided to make a break for the shelter just below the Keyhole. We hurried across the Ledge through the Keyhole and made it to the shelter just as the storm hit. On the way to the shelter, I found a German hiker along the Ledge hiding under a rock similiar to what the guy was doing in the article. I got him out of there and convinced him to follow us to the shelter. I saw huge lightning bolts hit in the Boulderfield as I approached the shelter. Quite scary! And this all occured right around noontime. After the storm passed a few hours later and we made it back down to the trailhead, I was told my some rangers and several other people that the afternoon thunderstorms have been rolling in much earlier than normal this year in the Rockies (actually...hours earlier than normal). So my advice to anyone climbing the peak is to start as early as possible and get down off the summit and start heading down even earlier than what the hiking guides tell you. In other words, well before noon!

david
Aug 10, 2010

C and I started up early. Near the top we saw three little clouds, size of a man's hand coalescing in the sunny sky. We ran down, yelling to the people still ascending to "GO BACK, GO BACK!". Most kept going up. We later sat on the porch and and looked at the beautiful summit, now covered with snow which fell after the rain and lightening had ceased. A friend told us he had the same experience and next day helped bring down body bags.

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Aug 08, 2010

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Aaron
Aug 07, 2010

A wise man once told me: On a 14er, If you can see the storm coming, it's already arrived.

Sounds to me like this fellow's actions were pretty irresponsible.

Bob D
Aug 06, 2010

I've been to the tops of 14,000 peaks. They are awesome. But none of them are worth being struck by lightning. Start early, summit before noon (well before, if possible) and get off the top soon thereafter. Don't know about tough (probably so), but indeed stupid. Or just unwise to CO mountain weather in the summer.

Tim
Aug 06, 2010

My vote is IGNORANT about Colorado weather patterns, STUPID about continuing up when a storm was obviously building, and EXTREMELY LUCKY to have survived something that he SHOULDN'T have survived. And he says he wants to go back and do it again??? Didn't learn.

John
Aug 06, 2010

Tough. And insightful.

Chris
Aug 06, 2010

I was hiking up Longs Peak in September a few years ago and camping at the boulderfield before summiting the next day. Very late in the afternoon we saw a group coming down the old cables route and questioned their sanity for being on the mountain so late. It turns out that they were all EDITORS AT BACKPACKER! I'm not kidding, I was reading an issue of Backpacker when they strolled through the boulderfield and that started the conversation. Now, I know it was in September, but still...

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