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Are portaledges a lightening magnet?
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theclimer


Aug 14, 2002, 7:30 AM
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Are portaledges a lightening magnet?
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Last night's local electrical storm got me to thinking about how scary it would be to be stuck on a wall somewhere with that kind of sh*t happening all around. And it also got me wondering how smart it is for a portaledge to be manufactured from something like Cro Moly (as the Fish ledge is). Now, I've never been on a ledge in a storm, so I don't have any first hand knowledge of the situation, but how likely is it that you will get zapped sitting on one of these while the bolts are flashing all around?

Thanks,

Jeff


punk


Aug 14, 2002, 7:44 AM
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Freaking phenomenal question…however the possibility is slim…. for one, the lightning most likely will accrue in the highest point of contact (i.e. summit, cliff top etc) b/c the electric charge is looking for the shortest way down (lets not get in to physical explanation and proofs---I can supply them if u in real need to work on your next mathematical project) I think that 99.99999% of the time u will be safe….unless the water gets hit and u so happen to be in the direct path of it
hope it helped


mountainmonkey


Aug 14, 2002, 8:57 AM
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... Well you guys are mostly right. Lightning usually strikes the highest point (summit), but it can strike half way down a steep cliff (sounds weird but I have seen it). My guess is that the lightning would be more attracted to your portaledge than a blank face, so you better hope you are in a relatively protected spot (like a dihedral). Check this website out - there is a lot of good information (a bit technically complicated but it has some great information on lightning safety).

http://www.supertopo.com/images/lightning.pdf

Be safe.

casey bernal


hollyclimber


Aug 14, 2002, 9:20 AM
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casey may be more right...after all, if it wouldn't hit you then why would we get so many warnings about not being on the Diamond in the afternoon?

hgb


peas


Aug 14, 2002, 9:40 AM
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The Alpine Accidents in Canada website has some reports on injuries/deaths from lightning. Not all of them happened on the summit. No reports on portaledges though.


gunked


Aug 14, 2002, 9:58 AM
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I have to agree. Freaking phenominal question! Not much to say except, this is one of those rare things that I'd just rather not think about too much. Kinda like taxes!


theclimer


Aug 14, 2002, 12:00 PM
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I was thinking that maybe the solution to this dangerous situation would be to free-solo any aid climbs naked. When it comes time to bivy, just jam your genitals into the closest secure crack and hang out for the night.

Well, maybe not completely naked. I was thinking plastic wrap as a nice outer layer.

This reminds me of a joke I once heard. A man walks into a psychotherapist's office wearing nothing but a pair of shorts made from Saran Wrap. The doctor takes one look at him and says, "I can clearly see you're nuts."

[ This Message was edited by: theclimer on 2002-08-14 12:58 ]


knotrocket


Aug 14, 2002, 4:46 PM
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So I guess size does matter? In the interest of being somewhat grown-up I won't open the can of worms the concept of camming your business into a crack presents...

As for getting hit by lightning, if the reaper is gunning for ya, he'll catch ya! I gotta think that if you get hit by lightning hanging from a rope in a relatively remote setting, buddy, it was your time!!

It's kinda like D.L. Hughley said, "If somebody kills my kid, you can bet Im'a kill a muthaf---a. Now, if an alligator eat my kid, that's pretty much the will of God..."


toobigtoclimb


Aug 14, 2002, 5:22 PM
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Actually, if you wear a condom on your unit before you jam it might give you some insulation in the case of a naked-big-wall-bivy lightening strike.

Gives a whole new meaning to 'placing protection.'



justsendingits


Aug 15, 2002, 12:24 PM
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You don't need a porta to atract lightning,just go up and hang out on the Diamond,anytime after 1.00 pm.


krustyklimber


Aug 15, 2002, 12:34 PM
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Dang!!!

Now I am really glad the Krustyledge is all plastic!

Like most really great things, that was an accident!

Jeff

[ This Message was edited by: krustyklimber on 2002-08-15 13:00 ]


radistrad


Aug 15, 2002, 12:50 PM
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As far as I know the only Porta-ledges that attract lightning are the ones that were previously owned by "tree huggers"


spike


Aug 15, 2002, 4:16 PM
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Hi theclimer,
I was on Moonlight Buttress the second week in April this year (2002) when a major thunder/lightening storm moved through. Our plan was to get to the top of P5 to bivy. As I was just finishing P4 Scott yelled up that he could see dark cloud forming north of us up the valley. When I looked over at the black mass of clouds the thunder started. It was already late in the afternoon so we decided to bivy at the top of P3 the "Rocker Block". By the time I fixed both ropes and rapped back down the storm was really moving in and the wind had picked up.
Scott was already setting up the A5 Double portaledge with the rain fly. As soon as the portaledge was setup I pulled all the bivy gear out of the pig and clipped it onto the portaledge under the rain fly just incase the rain hit. Luckily the top of the "Rocker Block" is a flat boulder; so we put everything we didn't need into the pig, closed it up and placed it underneath the ledge. The sky was completely dark with clouds by 5:00pm when a team of 2 other climbers from Colorado reached us. The top of P3 has 2 levels so the Colorado guys started setting up their brand new A5 double
portaledge, without a rain fly, on the lower tier. As darkness approached the thunder got louder and flashes of lightening started to streak across the sky. Headlamps came on as we ate dinner. Scott and I felt sorry for the Colorado climbers but they did have bivy bags. When large drops of rain started to fall we climbed into our bivy bags and lowered the yellow rain fly about 2/3's of the way down so we could watch the lightening show. It wasn't raining that much but the thunder started to get so loud it sounded like sonic booms and the lightening would light up the entire valley. Exciting and scary at the same time. By 8:00pm we decided to try and get some sleep, yah --- right, the wind was wiping the rain fly around. As the storm grew in intensity, when the thunder hit, you would go weak in the knees even though you were lying down! The lightening would light up the inside of the portaledge with a yellow glow. At around 9:00pm the Colorado guys yelled that lightening hit a tree across the valley and started a fire. We lifted the rain fly and look out across the valley and could clearly see a fire burning along the ridgeline. Lightening strikes were hitting all along the top of the ridgeline. We pulled down the rain fly and discussed the situation. If we get to much rain and the sandstone gets to wet we would bail off this thing in the morning. So far the storm was mostly thunder and lightening with very little rain. When we woke in the morning the sky was clean and the sandstone was dry. We got to the top that day at around 9:00pm and slept on the summit under a star filled sky. Even though I didn't want to be on a big wall during a storm, everything turned out OK and I will never forget that night, ever.
Richard / SPIKE


[ This Message was edited by: spike on 2002-08-15 16:17 ]

[ This Message was edited by: spike on 2002-08-15 16:18 ]

[ This Message was edited by: spike on 2002-08-15 16:21 ]


theclimer


Aug 15, 2002, 7:26 PM
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Wow, great recollection of what must have been a scary evening! I am glad that you and your partner made it out without any problems. Lightning (as you are surely aware) is a beautiful but extremely dangerous force, and I wouldn't ever want to get hit by it.

Personally I think I'll look for a plastic-based ledge just in case!

Later,

Jeff


duck


Aug 15, 2002, 8:06 PM
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Man, now yer gonna make me have to get all technical

Now, before anyone starts freaking out because I'm not citing 50,000 references here let me preface this by stating that I am a professional teacher/research scientist (I own The Geek Group), with a specialty in High-Voltage/High-Energy Physics and I've seen more lightning this year that all the people who will read this forum combined

For experiance I have built and operated Tesla Coils (Lightning Generators) that make arcs ranging from 3 inches, to over 20 feet.

I have a 500,000 Volt generator in my basement that I play with for fun.

I have 4 seperate power supplies that output 150,000 volts DC that power some of my BIG toys

I've built Marx generators (Impulse Capacitor banks) from 150,000 volts up to the next one we're working on that will generate 30+' arcs at over 1,500,000 volts DC at impulse energies of well over 400,000 Joules (that's actually more energy than a lightning strike of the same distance, imagine an arc as thick as your leg). This will be going in our new Avalon HVL.

Now, understanding all that, it is my professional, scientific, opinion, that if you're hanging on the side of a sheer face, sleeping on 1/1000th of an inch of nylon sheeting, with nothing more than a 10mm bit of rope and a few thousand feet of sailboat fuel between your ass and the ground, and you have the stones to do this in a THUNDERSTORM no less.....

then lightning is the least of your worries and you obviously don't understand the Gravity of your situation

Lighting will favour a breakout point, it's a Surface Energy Density thing. Lighting will look for pointy bits and stay away from smooth rounded edges .

Now, here's how to protect yourself from lighting on a big wall.

Provided that you are the only protrudeing surface object on an otherwise sheer, flat, smooth face comprised of thousands of square feet, then guess what.....you're a Breakout Point.

Get as close to the wall, with as little pointing out as you can. The best thing you can do is GET FLAT and you're fine. I'm sure if you had to you could sink about 20 pitons with a bit of 6AWG copper wire lacing them together and use an Aluminum avalanche pole as a Jesus Stick, but this is highly unlikely.

Just to give you a mental image, here's the worst case scenario of a lightning strike for ya.

The energy dissipates in you're bone marrow, flash boiling the water in your bones and raising the internal pressure of the larger ones (Femur, etc) to over 2100Psi before extensive catastrophic structureal failure when you explode and they clean you up with a sponge.

If a human body dissipates 400+kJ of energy, all that would be left is a slightly acrid odour. A lightning strike is all that seperates you from being a human, or a bad smell.

The good side is this almost Never Happens. Odds are you will only pass a small portion of the strike and end up looseing a shoe (the foot is optional) and getting some focal-point burns (usually a hand and a foot).

If you'd like to have the oppertunity to play with real lightning and high voltage then just PM me and come on over to Kalamazoo and I'll get ya lit

Dr.Duck


theclimer


Aug 16, 2002, 7:29 AM
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Jeez, I was all set to take you up on your offer until you mentioned Kalamazoo...

Ugh, Michigan.


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