American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Colorado, Parnassus Peak

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1970

Colorado, Parnassus Peak. On 7 September a group from the Colorado Mountain Club was ascending Parnassus Peak, an above timberline climb. They were aware of a storm in the distance, and some of the group turned back about 500 feet below the summit. David Hart (43) could see lightning across the valley from one to two miles away. The wind was not blowing the storm in their direction; hence, they thought it safe to continue on to the summit. As they descended, the storm still seemed at a safe distance. There was no static electricity. Suddenly Hart was aware that he was flat on the ground, and within a few seconds he realized that the bolt had struck within a short distance. There were no bums. A woman in the party was also thrown down, but suffered no injury. Most of the rest of the party was scattered over several hundred yards. Hart’s left leg seemed numb, and his left ankle was bent over about 30 degrees from the normal. He realized almost immediately that it was broken. It is his guess that at the moment of the lightning bolt, his leg was behind a rock, and the impact snapped it immediately.

Source: David Hart.

Analysis: (Hart). The accident could have been clearly avoided by leaving the mountain immediately upon being aware of the storm. During my years of climbing. I have always been aware and afraid of the storm dangers in the mountains. I have always been extra cautious of lightning in the mountains. This accident proves to me that when it comes to electrical storms, one cannot be too cautious.

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