American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Wyoming, Wind Rivers—Koven

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1958

Wyoming, Wind Rivers—Koven—On 20 July, Bob and Gail Bates, Fred Truslow and John Oberlin (43) were about 125 feet below the summit of Koven during the ascent, where they were forced to stop on a comfortable ledge when the blue sky was suddenly obscured by the low dark storm clouds. A heavy storm followed with much sleet but no rain. Most of the lightning seemed to strike at a reasonable distance and finally only the trailing edge of the storm was passing overhead. The bolt was unexpected. Oberlin came to only partially at first with a confused sense of tumbling down the mountain, a violent tingling in the arms and hands, difficulty in breathing and a feeling of having been slugged in the back of the neck. He called out “Hold me! ” but actually he had slipped down only a foot or two and was quite safe. Very quickly he regained his senses and soon was completely recovered except for his left leg and foot. The latter remained entirely numb for nearly one-half hour. Two small holes had been burned (or drilled) in the back of his hat and a strong odor of ozone persisted for some time. He suffered no bums but at first supposed he had received a burn in the center of the chest as this region was very sensitive for some time—possibly due to proximity to his parka zipper.

The other members of the party all received relatively light shocks and none was stunned.

Source: John Oberlin.

Analysis: (Oberlin). Except for the fact that the weather had been gener-

ally unstable, we had no warning of the approaching storm. There was no other really good ledge for quite a long way below us. On the other hand, as it turned out, the slabs behind our ledge rose almost vertically to the summit. Although I had warned Fred not to lean back against these slabs, I must have permitted my head to come close to them when it seemed the storm was practically past.

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