En-lightning experiences | AspenTimes.com

En-lightning experiences

Ron RashAspen, CO Colorado

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had a special relationship with God. When King Nebuchadnezzar became a little perturbed at these three, he ordered them thrown into the fiery furnace. The furnace was so intensely hot that the men who threw them in died. Later, a very surprised Nebuchadnezzar looked into the furnace to see the three men walking around. Nebuchadnezzar slowly learned the lesson to choose your friends wisely.I don’t think God would be inclined to save me from the fiery furnace at this time in my life. Even if Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego formed a huddle around me, I think God could still get a lightning bolt through them to teach me the error of my sinful ways. My relationship with God has changed so drastically that I even watch out when there are only clear blue skies.On the few occasions in the mountains that God has tried to get me with lightning bolts, I’ve been lucky so far in avoiding his wrath.He tried getting me a few years back when was I guiding two gentlemen on Castle Peak. The clouds did not appear that threatening, but the buzzing from our ice axes strapped to our packs was warning enough that something was afoot. We quickly took our axes off our packs and made a beeline into Montezuma Basin. It was a very prudent decision, for multiple lightning strikes hit the ridge we had been on five minutes earlier.A similar occurrence happened on La Plata when I did not heed the advice of my significant other at that time. Just as we hit the summit of La Plata, she looked over at Pyramid Peak to see an angry black cloud swirling about its summit. She announced that we should descend immediately. I countered that we had plenty of time before the approaching storm hit us.By the time we signed the register and took a few photos, the storm was coming over the Continental Divide and bearing down on us with an amazing swiftness that made me realize my ex-wife needed to be listened to more then I cared to admit. Before we could get off the summit ridge and start descending, the storm was on us, and the hair on our heads was literally starting to lift as electrical charges were building in the air. With our hair on end, and a sizzling ring reverberating in the air, we ran between strikes and laid low just as the strike would occur. We were scared by the intensity of the storm and nearly paid for my misjudgment with our lives – a reminder I would hear for many years to come.When the same storm arrived in Vail, it produced a lightning strike that killed a man on his bicycle. Similar to our party on the ridge, the man in Vail was the highest point in his surroundings when the lightning bolt struck, which is something to avoid.Some points to keep in mind about lightning if you have not developed an unshakable trust in God’s protection: Try to get off the summits, high ridges or high passes well before noon. If you see the development of cumulus clouds early in the day, descend to lower elevations. If you do get caught by a thunderstorm, get out of open areas. Take cover in groves of trees, not under single trees – they act like lightning rods.Many outdoor books describe getting into what’s called the lightning position. The lightning position is simply squatting down with your feet together. The theory being that, if lightning hits near you, the current will travel through you and out of you without causing harm. I have not read the test results on subjects in the American Medical Journal; I think they might need more volunteers.Everyone in your party should have some basic first-aid training in case someone is struck by lightning. That training should include the ability to perform CPR, rescue breathing, and the ability to treat burns and shock. I like to travel with backcountry companions who have medical training rather than those that can recite Psalms Chapter 23 as they’re standing over my convulsing body with folded hands.Colorado has the dubious distinction of being the state with the second-highest number of lightning fatalities. For the rest of July, August and September, be sure to watch the weather patterns and descend to lower elevations if threatening conditions arise. Ron is a local mountain guide and senior National Outdoor Leadership School instructor who respects dark clouds and the opinions of exes. Ron thanks everyone who e-mailed him saying the Ute Trail to the rocks is a 1,100-foot elevation gain not 1,600 feet. He can be reached for comment at ronlrash@aol.com. His outdoors column appears Saturdays in The Aspen Times.


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