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Hiking Hazards - Lightning

Lightning guidelines:

  • If in a group, spread out so a single bolt won't zap everyone at once.
  • Sit on your foam pad if you're carrying one, or other nonconductive object and make yourself as small as possible
  • Avoid bodies of water
  • Avoid high places
  • Avoid wide-open places
  • Avoid tall objects
  • Avoid metal objects
  • Avoid low damp places
  • Avoid tall trees
  • Sitting near a grove of trees is a good, safe bet -- just don't sit under a tree
  • If you're caught on a mountain summit, get off quickly
  • Check the weather reports before you leave
  • Know how to read cloud types and shapes, what they mean, and what they portend
  • Electrical storms are common on all of California's high peaks, and numerous people have been struck by lightning on them
  • Lightning strikes occur in the bottoms of valleys, on small ridges, and near summits
  • There is good information in various instructional mountaineering books on what to do in case you are caught in an electrical storm while on a summit of a peak
  • Once lightning hits, it spreads out, traveling along the ground in the path of least resistance, so you want to stay out of that path. Avoid steep inclines, where the current travels more freely.
  • If you are stuck in the open above treeline, your best bet is to crouch on top of a rock (not the highest one in the area) that is somewhat elevated or otherwise detached from the rocks underneath it.
  • DO NOT huddle in a slight depression, under an overhanging rock, or in a small cave. Larger caves are better.
  • The best position is to crouch low with your feet as close together as possible.

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