Yesterday was maybe either the luckiest or most unusual day in my life. I was hit by what I can only guess was a spark of lightning. It couldn’t have been the entire bolt, or I’d be dead, I think.
We climbed Dark Angel, a tower in Arches National Park. As I was following the pitch, it started to rain. I reached the summit, in extremely high winds, and pouring rain.
Andrew started to rappel, and I felt a blow to the right upper part of my helmet, at the same time that I saw a huge, bright flash. I felt a bit dizzy, and immediately went into my “emergency survival mode”. Luckily, after climbing all my life, since I was a child climbing with my parents, this is deeply ingrained, and automatic.
‘This is really, really bad. I need to out of here as fast as I can, before I’m hit again.
I also thought: ‘I need to be really careful now, and double-check everything, and not rush and make a serious mistake.’
I wasn’t hurt, and not that scared - I’d already been hit by something, which I can only assume was a spark of lightning. I saw a big bolt go by me, as I felt the blow, and it appeared to hit some distance away. I guess that maybe a spark from the big bolt went out to the side and got my helmet? Luckily, the helmet seems pretty good insulation.
I put my foot under the rope, so that I would immediately notice when the pressure released and I could pull up rope to get myself on rappell. As soon as the pressure on my foot let up, I tried pulling up rope. Though only about 100′ from the ground, Andrew and I could not hear each other due to the howling wind, which was blowing our ropes horizontally to the side.
As soon as I could pull up rope, which was hard due to the pull from the high winds, I clipped on my rappel device, double -checked the set-up, and jumped off the ledge. It was a free rappel - I don’t know if it was due to the tower overhanging, or the wind blowing me out away from the wall.
“I got hit!” I exclaimed, as soon as I hit the ground.
Andrew said he’d never, ever, seen two people rappel so quickly off a climb.
We hid under a rock during the pouring rain. More thunder pealed and grumbled around us; rain poured down in sheets.
I seemed to be ok. No burns, no pain, no injuries, a little bit of a headache. That was all.
But I felt that I was lucky to survive, and that I need to update my will before climbing anything else dangerous — which I guess, could be any climb when it storms.
I think I’ll be way more reluctant to climb in stormy conditions after this. today, I’m having a rest day in the Moab library. I’ll climb again on a clear sunny day with no clouds.