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Life-or-Death Decisions – Caught in a Storm

When a storm comes out of nowhere, learn how to handle the unexpected.
build fire(Illustration by Supercorn)

3. Reading the weather
WRONG: Ignore those clouds building on the horizon–the summit is just an hour away!
RIGHT: Watch for thick, dark, anvil-shaped clouds. If bad weather seems to be blowing in, stop and do a “pre-mortem”: If a storm obscures visibility, will you be able to find your way back down? Will you be exposed to lightning? Keep track of warning signs, such as dropping temperatures and increased winds, and use them to convince summit-fevered partners to turn back.

How to spot a coming storm
A. Altostratus: These high, gray clouds often cover the entire sky and indicate prolonged rain or snow is on the way.
B. Nimbostratus: These low, thick, gray clouds block most sunlight and usually bring steady, light- to medium- intensity rain or snow.
C. Cumulonimbus: These towering, anvil-shaped clouds can produce lightning, snow, heavy rain, and hail.

4. Deciding to stay or go
WRONG: Strike out blindly into the storm, trying to feel your way to safety in a whiteout–you have to get outta there, no matter what!
RIGHT: “If the weather’s so bad that you can’t see the trail, you should wait it out,” says Brown. Mark your location on your map or GPS, put on extra layers, then find or build shelter.

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