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Alberta, Rockies, Mt. Athabaska

Alberta, Rockies, Mt. Athabaska. On 29 July D. Caldwell (27), L. Swanson (27), and S. Imber (30) were on the usual (Thorington’s 2) route on Mt. Athabaska. Miss Imber stayed on the false summit while the two men went out the long snow ridge to the top. The day was quite cloudy with occasional drizzle; the top few hundred feet of the peak were in cloud.

Lightning simultaneously knocked out Miss Imber and L. Swanson and harmlessly jolted one person in another party a few hundred yards below the girl. Miss Imber fell among rocks, receiving a number of face cuts and leg bruises that made walking difficult. Some hair was burned from her head. The injured man was seriously disorganized mentally, with total amnesia. His wits and memory returned gradually but completely during the descent. One ankle was painfully twisted.

Source: Sayre Rodman; T. Stevenson.

Analysis: This was no case of foolishness among inexperienced kids; the weather taught a nasty lesson to two experienced parties. All were fooled by lightning which occurred when it was not expected, with absolutely no warning. This was the usual dull, frustrating day, with clouds touching peaks, but no sign of the storm turbulence we usually associate with electrical trouble.

Most, if not all, of us had often been chased off peaks by warnings such as local buzzes, distant flashes, or just boiling clouds that look wrong; we were alert for these things. The first sign of static was the discharge that affected in varying degree three persons scattered over half a mile of ridge.