|Palmdale climbers face
bolts out of the blue
Daily News Monday October 1,
||It was as
if a thousand arc welders suddenly
like fireworks gone
Photo Covered by International
- Getting surrounded by a lightning storm wasn't
what Antelope Valley College photography
instructor Lee Bergthold and companion Marshall
Landin were expecting when they began a seven-day
After spending a
beautiful clear morning climbing the Sierra
Nevada west of Independence, the Antelope Valley
men were just beginning their final push over the
13,000 foot crest when the weather changed.
Bergthold, who has
spent much of his life trekking through North
American mountains and deserts, was concerned
when the sky suddenly turned gray and the air
grew still. The first lightning bolt struck just
after he yelled at Landin to hurry toward a
plateau, 100 yards ahead. Then wind, rain and
hail whipped the upper plateau with no tents up
and no natural shelter in sight.
"It was as if
a thousand arc welders suddenly surrounded us ...
like fireworks gone crazy," said Bergthold.
Landin said he
still experiences flashbacks to the wild
lightning storm almost three months ago on
Just last month, a
13 year-old camper was knocked unconscious and a
hiker was killed at a state park 40 miles east of
San Diego on Sept. 2. The next day, an Apple
Valley teenager was killed and a 9 year-old was
injured by a lightning strike in a field near
Landin said he was
concentrating so intently on putting up his tent
that he doesn't really remember much of the
Sierra Nevada lightning storm.
"I didn't even
want to look up. I just wanted to get my tent up,"
said Landin, a warehouse worker. "At the
time I was more (angry) that I was getting wet."
lightning passed, but the rain continued and fog
moved in. During a lull in the storm, Bergthold
made the decision to load up and move to a lower
elevation rather than risk more lightning.
"Even a belt
buckle or piece of metal on our packs could've
been a target," said Bergthold.
carefully, the two worked their way through the
thick fog to the Rex Montis Mine, 1,000 feet
below the plateau.
raining again on us, and that was really a
technical descent because of the rain. The rocks
were slippery. The dirt was muddy," Landin
said. "It was a hard descent. Most of the
time I was just asking myself, What am I doing up
The climbers spent
nearly two days in a shelter at the mine before
the weather cleared and they were able to
complete their trip. Landin said that he never
will forget the experience.
"I was at a
wedding, and a flash went off (from a camera). I
caught the flash out of the corner of my eye, and
for that split second I was back up on the
mountain," he said.
Despite the storm,
Landin plans to go mountaineering again next
definitely go again. Sometimes you walk into a
bad situation," said Landin.