The Long’s Peak area of Rocky Mountain National Park is notorious for its lightning storms. Unfortunately, I can’t say that we escaped this fury of this place, as we only managing to finish two out of four attempted climbs on a recent RMNP jaunt. Lightning and sleet forced us off the others. Climbing high can be tough in the first place, but when you add weather to the mix, it becomes a bazillion times more challenging and stressful. The routes you bail off of will inevitably work you over more than the ones that go smoothly. Mt. Meeker’s Flying Buttress (at right) is an amazing ridge that Cece M., Gina, and I had hoped to climb. But only partway into the first pitch, the clouds started rolling in…
Gina smiles through the sleet here, but we weren’t really having fun at this point. Cece had to prussic back up to get our rope unstuck from an anchor while Gina and I shivered down below. Luckily, there were some boulders we ducked under to wait out the storm once we were back on the ground.
Two days later, Cece and I were back up high, this time attempting the West Ridge of Pagoda Mountain. This was supposed to be the more casual of the two climbing days we had planned, but when we were about two-thirds up the ridge, storms started closing in on both sides.
The clouds moved in quickly, smothering the Keyboard of the Winds (above), and we both started getting super-antsy, watching lightning strike peaks close by. Then the zinging started. Literally, you could hear the lightning in the air. So we bailed. A massive chore, as we had to rappel down the entire Pagoda Mountain face; its lichen-carpeted slaps were too frozen and slippery to downclimb.
Later, we heard that five people got struck by lightning on Long’s Peak that day, so our decision to bail felt even more justifiable. The irony of weather like this is that it sometimes clears as quickly as it comes in. By the time we made it back to camp, we were cooking in the evening sun.
And even though I had been scared enough to want to hike all the way down the valley that night, Cece persuaded me to just sleep it out and see how I felt in the morning. Of course, we both woke up wanting to climb and had a fantastic day out on Spearhead—without any lightning, sleet, or slippery slabs to contend with.