Climbers In Colorado’s Mountains Need To Be Informed About Weather Dangers

DENVER (CBS4) – After a rash of lightning strikes across the state, some Coloradans are wondering what can be done to protect people on Colorado’s highest peaks.

Three weeks ago more than a dozen people were struck and a dog was killed on Mount Bierstadt near Georgetown. That’s a peak that as many as 40,000 people scale each year.

And late last week a honeymooning Denver couple was struck on Mount Yale near Buena Vista, killing the wife and injuring the husband.

Lloyd Athearn of the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative told CBS4 there’s not much they can do to protect people when they are on dangerous terrain, but their goal is to inform people about the dangers.

“You’re never going to be able to make the mountains safe,” Athearn said. “That’s the most important message, whether it’s winter or summer.”

Mount Bierstadt (credit: CBS)

Mount Bierstadt (credit: CBS)

Athern says hikers need to know about weather conditions and use good judgement, which might mean sometimes giving up a chance to make it to the summit of a mountain.

“You’re the vulnerable party and the mountains are always going to still be there, so exercise good judgement. If things are deteriorating, head down,” he said.

Experts advise people to hike early in the morning and to watch for constantly changing weather patterns, particularly big, dark clouds.

Since 2005, 18 people have died in Colorado from lightning.

“It’s a constant challenge trying to let people realize that these mountains are both accessible and approachable but also have a very dangerous side to them,” Athearn said.

Athearn said it’s actually surprising to him that there aren’t more weather-related incidents that happen to hikers in Colorado.

“With a lot of people out in an environment that can at times be very unpredictable it is very surprising that there aren’t more problems that occur,” he said.

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