Mountain skies are rather fickle and occasionally store up some unexpected surprises for hikers. All hikers will have encountered the infamous summer storm, a violent, unpredictable and potentially dangerous spectacle. We met Joël Roux, mountain guide , he talked to us about this phenomenon as well as what to do in case you get caught in a mountain.
– How can you plan for mountain storms?
Summer is, of course, the season to enjoy the mountains but it’s also a time of extreme heat which means the stormy season. The main concern is the speed with which the storm arrives; the weather in the mountains changes very quickly, before you’ve even had time to realize. So you need to learn to be vigilant and to observe the environment around you. You are advised to check the local weather forecast and observe the sky regularly. You can often spot the warning signs of a storm by the presence of very tall clouds with a dark base. Very often, the threat is strongest at the end of the day but that doesn’t rule out being unpleasantly surprised in the middle of the day.
– What are the dangers of mountain storms?
Some storms can, of course, be beautiful, dramatic and very impressive but you still need to be careful. Apart from river flooding, rock slides, a sudden drop in temperature and hail, the main danger is being struck by lightening. Each year, there are several recorded incidents of hikers hit by lightening.
– When it comes to storms, where’s the best place to shelter?
A better question would be: which places should you avoid? The most important thing is to try to avoid stopping on a ridge or peak or under an isolated tree where you’ll be the highest object. And avoid sheltering under a tree or boulder. You should also move as far away as possible from water, lakes, streams etc. as water is a conductor of electricity.
– What should you do during the storm?
Put down all metallic objects such as walking poles and move away from them.
The correct position is crouched down (feet together, arms around knees, head on knees) on top of your backpack, or on some other insulator so that your feet don’t touch the ground.If you’re in a group, leave a certain amount of space between each of you.Finally, stay calm and wait until the next clear interval to continue your hike; storms are intense but often short-lived.
What equipment should you have with you?
When you notice the large, dark grey clouds, presaging the gathering storm, or feel the first few drops of rain, before you get soaked, put on your wet weather clothing to help you keep dry as humidity is a conductor of electricity. Anticipate the drop in temperature and slip on a warm layer under your waterproof clothing.
crédits photos : Maria S
And then enjoy your summer in the mountains!
find this article on the new magazine Hiking on the Moon #9, “Between HEAVEN AND EARTH”
Crédits photos : Maria S