American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Lightning, Late Start, Inexperience, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Hallett Peak

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1993

LIGHTNING, LATE START, INEXPERIENCE

Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Hallett Peak

On June 28, 1992, at 2100, Glenn R. McDonald (31) was struck and killed by lightning near the summit of Hallett Peak after ascending Hallett Chimney II (5.6). McDonald and his partner Wayne Smart were attempting to summit when the incident occurred. Smart attempted CPR, but there was no response from McDonald.

Analysis

Smart had intermediate climbing skills, but McDonald was a beginner. They did not know each other prior to the climb. They had met through a “climbing partner wanted” ad on the bulletin board of a Boulder mountaineering shop. They had initially planned to do the Culp-Bossier Route III (5.8), but could not locate the start, so did Hallett Chimney instead. They finished the technical portion of the route by about 2000. Although they noticed a prominent electrical storm in progress on nearby Longs Peak, they thought it would be safe to continue to Hallett Peak’s summit.

McDonald and Smart had a very late start. They were contacted by Ranger Vicki Steele at 0930, at Dream Lake, less than halfway to the start of their destination. Steele cautioned them about the hazards of starting late. They said they were aware of these. Their inexperience at alpine route-finding also slowed them down. It is recommended that climbers start their routes at first light so they are headed down before the afternoon thunderstorms arrive. Finally, alpine climbs are no place for “blind dates.” Its better to meet on an easy rock climb to test each other's skills. (Source: Jim Detterline, Longs Peak Supervisory Climbing Ranger, Rocky Mountain National Park)

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