Sunday, April 27, 2014

Lightning Survival and Risk Managment Information for Hiking

"Yeah it was scary!  The car was 600 yards away and I ran as hard as I could PRAYING not to get struck. I lasted about 150 yards then screeched to a walk, out of oxygen, wasted, and praying I WOULD get struck."  -- This is from a recent conversation with an awesome, fit, brother-in-law who lives in Texas but visits Colorado quite often. A storm sneaked upon his group from the blind side of the mountain while they fished. He made it safe to the car and back down the mountain where he said,  "I went straight to my tent, laid down, and it took over 4 hours before I felt right again"

According to a write up Wild Backpacker on average there are over 50 deaths from lightning strikes annually in the United States and as many as 24,000 globally.  In previous post I pointed to data the reported that the county Pike's Peak resides in, El Paso County, was the second highest in Colorado for cloud to ground lightning strikes.  Immediately below is an excerpt from a previous post, "Barr Trail, This is Not a Walk in the Park" Followed by that are What to do, and what not do that I have read during my research for this post.

According to the NOAA there are on average 27.5 thousand cloud to ground lightning strikes per year in El Paso county Colorado.  The numbers in the image below are in the thousands and represent an annual average.  Notice El Paso county, home of Barr Trail is by far the second most county for cloud to ground lighting strikes.

Keep in mind too that when hiking up Pike's Peak, based on your altitude, you could end up INSIDE the cloud where lightning is occurring.

Below is table, also from NOAA, that provides statistics on lightening injuries and fatalities. It is critically important  to understand what to look for to avoid being caught in a lightening storm and safety measures to take in the event you do become so.  My eyes did widen a bit when I saw there were 12 injured by lightening last year in El Paso county.  Hovering over that row in the table you will find a link to a story that reports this was a single event on an Army base.

YearMonthDayTimeTotal KilledTotal Injured
Source: NOAA

The Lightning Position:
If are in a situation where a lightning storm is upon you and you are not in a modern structure or a hard topped vehicle then a safe measure to take would be to get into the Lightning Position.  The goal is to create as SMALL a front print as possible touching the ground and to be as low as possible.
Remove any protruding metal from you (i.e. back pack frames, trekking poles) and distance from it,
Put both feet closely together (if possible get on a foam pad or pack with no metal)
Squat down on the balls of your feet
Head down and hands over your ears

If you are with others then separate out at least 50' from one another.  The point of this is that it will hopefully reduce the number of casualties if there is a strike and allow others to render aid to anyone who is struck.

To Do's and NOT To Do's:

Prevention is Best:
1.  Time visits to high risk areas with local weather patterns.
2. Keep an eye on the weather and turn around to safety sooner rather than later

Seek Shelter:
1. An enclosed modern structure is best, a hard topped vehicle is a runner up
2. If there is no structure or vehicle then head for safer terrain
    a. If on a mountain; descend, most preferably on a side not covered by clouds, below the tree line is safer than above
    b. If there is no more time to descend, meaning the lightning is upon you or soon will be
        i. find a significant depression and go to it get into the Lightning Position
        ii. find a grove of trees trying to surround your self with shorter trees which hopefully are further out surrounded by taller trees.  Lightning tends to strike the tallest object.  Get into the Lightning Position.
3. If 1 and 2 are not options and the storm is upon you get into the Lightning Position.

What to Avoid:
1. Being the tallest object if possible! (BUT DO NOT LAY DOWN; get in the Lightning Position)
2. Do not stand or seek shelter under the tallest object
3. Peaks and ridges
4. Overhangs (this includes your front porch by the way)
5. Wide open ground

What do if someone is struck:
If an individual is struck by lightning it is best to render aid as soon as safely possible.


There is a high chance that the individual may be in cardiac arrest (their heart has stopped beating) and that they are not breathing.  Training in CPR and First Aid are offered in multiple venues.  Classes, training methods, and reference info; including phone apps, backed by the Red Cross and the American Heart Association can be found on line.
Click Here for the Red Cross
Click Here for the AHA

A Handy Lightning Risk Management Pamphlet for Hikers and Campers
The NOAA, the National Weather Service, and NOLS, have put together a PDF to be downloaded, printed, followed, and toted.  It is very illustrated and informative. I especially like the large "at a glance" graphic that shows examples of areas the at greatest risk to least risk.

Click Here to access the Pamphlet.

NOLS also has a nice write up on backcounty lightning risk management that explains the "why" to some of the safety precautions advised to be taken,  Such as seek a grove of small trees next to larger trees. Click Here to view their document.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Sunday, April 20, 2014

My hip is 1 month old!

Yesterday marked 4 weeks since my hip replacement.  The day before that I was told by the therapist at my doctor's office that I was to slow it WAY down.  I was disappointed to hear this.  I have heard that I need to slow it down a bit but this new therapist gave me the physiologic facts and possible repercussions.  I have requested a phone call with my doctor to run what she said by him.  She reminded me that he is a true extreme athlete (biathlons / triathlons) and said he is probably going to say, "heck yeah, go for it!"

I will do as always, gather advice, facts, opinions, of others and then make my own decision.  I will not purposefully do something that will cause this replacement to be ineffective and place me right back in the same pain I have been in over the past 25+ years.  To that end, I have already come to the decision there is MUCH I can do cardio wise and resistance wise to train, and I can train every other muscle, joint, bone in my body to its max potential while still babying my right hip and femur and performing only recommend exercises upon it.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Weigh In

Put 3 pounds on post surgery. Can I blame this new EXTREMELY HEAVY hip? :/  Gotta get back on a proper diet and find new ways to get cardio!!!! Pikes Peak!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Notes about Water and Purification Systems for Hikers

While I am feeling fairly secure in the fact that during our hike on 8/9/14 up Barr Trail to Barr Camp and then on to the summit of Pikes Peak on 8/10/14 that will have plenty of drinking I always favor on the side of being prepared.  We will take water with us and there is typically drinkable water at Barr Camp and then again at the Summit House but there in the event we need to rely on one of the water sources on America's Mountain I will be packing a water purification system.

There a few sites out there the have write ups on comparisons but by far the best I found was from Outdoor Gear Lab from the which the below information is taken.  But first a little on the importance of water especially as it pertains to physical exertion and altitude.

Physiological Facts
According to the United States Geological Survey web page up to:
60% of the human body is water
73% of the brain and heart are water
83% of the lungs
64% of the skin
79% of muscles and muscles and kidneys and
31% of our bones are water!

Here it is a graphic from the USGS site.  Notice that little blurb in the lower right hand concerning the aid in delivering OXYGEN to the entire body.  I am thinking that will become even more critical the greater the ascent into higher altitudes.

On a normal day the adult male needs 3 liters of water and females 2.2.  According to the Outdoor Gear Lab site when exercising in the mountains the required amount of water can increase by 50% meaning men may require over 4 liters of water and women 3 per day.

By the way; water weighs 1 kilo (2.2 lbs) per liter.  This is something important to keep in mind as you pack the amount of gear you will be carrying.

Concerning altitude sickness I have come across contradicting information but most of it ways towards the fact that drinking additional water helps reduce the risk of altitude sickness.  What seems more plausible is that dehydration is mistaken for altitude sickness.  Dehydration will be more prevalent during the hike due to a couple of factors, the most obvious being the additional exertion of hiking up the side of mountain.  Another factor is increased water vapor lost from the lungs, according to WikiHow.

Water Purification System Options
Items to consider when selecting a system:

  • Cost - How much will the system set you back your pocket book?
  • Reliability and Effectiveness - When out in the middle of nowhere will you be able to count on the system?  Will the system rid the water of both bacteria and virus?
  • Amount of water treated - How many hikers will be needing the water?  Will you be expecting to cook with the water?
  • Time to treat - Will treatment be fairly instant or will have to treat for several hours.
  • Weight - How much weight will the system be adding to your gear
  • Ease of use - Will you need an engineer degree to put the system together or will be as simple as dropping a tablet into a bottle of water?

Types of Systems: Those that CLEANS / Those that PURIFY

  • Pump filters - cleanse water by pumping it through a filter
  • Gravity-fed filters - cleanse water by using gravity to push it through a filter
  • Drops and tablets - purify water by treating it with a chemical
  • UV Light - purify water by treating it with ultraviolet light

My Selection(s)
For our trip up Barr Trail my understanding is that risk of virus is extremely is typically more a concern when hiking outside the US and Canada. We will hopefully only be minutes or a few hours away from receiving assistance if so needed.  I would like to be able drink the water almost immediately and not have to carry around additional water while it treats.  Hopefully we will be staying at Barr Camp where they will be cooking our meals, so that shouldn't be a concern!

Bottom line I may not really need a purification system but as I mentioned before I do believe in being prepared AND the geek in me wants so new toys to play with!  I initially chose the Sawyer Squeeze System. This was due to the fact it met my requirements; low cost, light weight, eliminated pathogens and very small particulate and was rated a best buy by Outdoor Gear Lab.

The Squeeze System does not eliminate viruses and after performing some additional research for this post I decided to cover some additional bases (and yes get another toy) and decided to purchase the Steri-Pen as well to eliminate any viral agents that may be in the water source.

So to wrap up I realize my "newbness" is showing by adding extra weight to our gear and spending a little more than I need to but the bottom line is a will be able to squash bacteria, virus, and sizable particulate from our water.  I hope others find this information useful and as always I welcome feedback and most importantly advice.