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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Lightning Pass

Lightning is such a random thing, as unpredictable as life itself. It's one of few things that does not play by the "rules," and harbors no respect for the brave or fool or both.

Dawn in Lovely Ouray broke under a cloudless dome of blue. "Weather Guessers" said to expect thunderstorms to roll in mid-afternoonish. We assumed that would leave plenty of time for a hike from Yankee Boy Basin up to Blue Lakes Pass. 
Assume:  Ass/u/me

A speck of a setting, two-thirds moon behind Gipen's gnarly south ridge. Yep, we been up there

Due to a cluster-fuck of Jeepers and ATVs, we ended up parking a mile or so below Yankee Boy's yet-to-bloom basin. It's almost as fast to hike rocky, rutted roads as it is to get in line to 4-wheel up it, anyway. Besides, parking lower would extend our hike by a couple miles. 

As you can see below, nary a cloud as we strolled toward Mount Sneffles and the upper basin. The road was soon buried under snow, which kept obscenely loud ATV Motorheads from polluting our solitude.   

Yankee Boy was lush, but yet to flower much beyond a few bluebells and the occasional clump of columbine.

You see? Almost there and barely a cloud.

Hardly threatening, right?

A few minutes later we turned around to have a look back down-basin. Hmmm, that was fast!

Ten minutes after that...about 11 AM. 
Fucking NOAA!

Hearing nothing in the way of thunder, we continued on...skirting the base of Mount Sneffles. We met two hikers and a dog coming off the access/escape scree of rocks and boulders—the common route for ascending our backyard 14er. One had made it to the top, the other got spooked by a sketchy snow crossing just a couple hundred yards from the summit. Good thing they got an early start, given the weather. 

We told them we were headed for Blue Lakes Pass. As we parted they told us to be safe. I said, "We're still waiting for the first roll of thunder." To which they said, "Oh we've been hearing it for a while."

We clumped on through a field of Sneffles' shed boulders, crossed a snowfield, past a sign that said 1/4 mile to Blue Lakes Pass. We just might beat the building storm.

Just as we arrived at the final switchbacks up to the Blue Lakes Pass, a roll of reverberating thunder stopped us in our tracks. Time to head down...

Storm over Wright's Lake...still trying to thaw.

We took the snow-filled couloir shortcut. Blue Lakes Pass is the most distant horizon, over Bobbie's head 
In spite of the thunder and lightning that sent us scurrying down, we met three backpackers heading up into the storm, destination: Blue Lakes. I told them how black it was behind the pass...and about thunder and exposure up there. But, they kept going.

Then we met a solo gal hiking up. She had summited Sneffles via the Blue Lakes route (lots of exposure) and was headed back up to look for a pack full of expensive gear ($1,000 bucks) that somehow slipped from her back and slid all the way down a steep couloir full of snow...out of sight. We warned her, too, but to no avail. 

Continuing down, I mentioned lightnings "randomness" to Bobbie. Like, it'd be our luck to be struck playing is safe and heading down, while the crazies going on up into the black thunder-zone...one of them solo...get a lightning pass. 

We fell short by about 10 minutes. Odds are we could have probably made it and lived to tell. Then again, why mess with Thor and fate?  

We're headed down, Thor. Leave us alone!
"You might get run over; you might get hit by lightning. I mean, who knows? Each day, there is a chance you might die. And there's nothing wrong with that. Every living being on Earth is facing that same existential rift. Alex Honnold

Peace out,
mark and bobbie


  1. Keep on working, great job!

  2. Being up there with the lightning is probably safer than crossing Main Street in the summer. 😆

  3. Still a lovely hike, especially once you get beyond the noisy ATVers.

    1. Why why why do we need loud, dust raising race-buggys in wilderness areas? I just don't understand it...

  4. Keep on keeping on! -scamp

  5. You're crazy! It's beautiful!

  6. Another GREAT post from the San Juan's, thank you Mark & Bobbie
    Love the video clips of the rushing streams, just the thought of that ice cold water is heavenly.


    1. Thanks my Sonoma Pals...hope you are staying cool out there!

  7. Amazing amount of snow still up there!
    When we got caught in a thunderstorm a couple weeks ago on a hike there were several families with young kids heading right for the darkest clouds, laughing and talking like they didn't even notice the thunder and lightning. We, on the other hand, nearly ran for 2 miles to get back to the car :-)

    1. And you lived to tell...but so did the family most likely. Go figure...guess they hadn't used up all their stupid tokens yet.

  8. Interesting picture of you standing on the frozen lake looking up and bargaining with God. Ask and you shall receive. I’m sure he has granted you many requests. I do not mean to get too spiritual but when surrounded by such beauty there seems to be few earthly answers.

    Wonder if you could get Leon to take a dip in that ice covered lake? I would watch that video.

    1. What can I say...
      At least we agree on the "beauty" part, and Leon would have waded into that water...I wish he would have been there cause that would be a great video of him swimming around in Ice Water, then me doing mouth-to-mount CPR on his blue lips :)


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