A storm in the mountains, what should you do

A storm in the mountains, what should you do?

Summer is, of course, the season to enjoy hiking in the mountains, but it's also a time of extreme heat, which means the stormy season!

Joël Roux, mountain guide, tells us what to do if you are caught in a storm in the mountains. The mountain skies are tricky and sometimes full of surprises. All hikers have experienced these surprise summer storms that are violent, unpredictable and potentially dangerous in nature.  

How can you predict a storm in the mountains?

Summer is, of course, the season to enjoy the mountains, but it's also a time of extreme heat, which means the stormy season. The main concern is the speed with which the storm arrives; the weather in the mountains changes very quickly, before you've even had time to realize. So you need to learn to be vigilant and to observe the environment around you. You are advised to check the local weather forecast and observe the sky regularly. Likely warning signs of a storm that you can look out for include the presence of tall clouds with a dark base.

Very often, the threat is strongest at the end of the day, but that doesn't rule out being unpleasantly surprised in the middle of the day.

how to predict storm mountain hiking
storms danger mountain hiking

What dangers do storms in the mountains pose?

Whilst they can be beautiful, impressive and spectacular, you should take care all the same.

Apart from river flooding, rock slides, a sudden drop in temperature and hail, the main danger is being struck by lightning.

Each year, there are several recorded incidents of hikers hit by lightening.

Where should you take shelter in the event of a storm?

The question ought to be: which places should you avoid?

The most important thing is to try to avoid stopping on a ridge or peak or under an isolated tree where you'll be the highest object.~And do not take shelter under a tree or boulder.~You should also move as far away as possible from water, lakes, streams etc. as water is a conductor of electricity

What should you do during the storm?

Lay down all your metal objects such as walking poles, and move away from them.~The correct position is crouched down (feet together, arms around knees, head on knees) on top of your backpack, or on some other insulator so that your feet don't touch the ground.~If you're in a group, leave a certain amount of space between each of you. Finally, stay calm and wait until the next clear interval to continue your hike; storms are intense but often short-lived.

mountain hiking storm equipment

What equipment should you have?

When you see large dark-grey clouds on their way indicating a storm, or as soon as the first drops of rain fall, put on your rain gear before you get wet and keep dry, because moisture is a conductor (the light and compact rain cut is a great companion for summer hikes).

Also prepare for a drop in temperature by adding a warm layer under your waterproof clothing (the compressible X-light down jacket can be stored in its pouch and easily brought along with you).

Finally, to ensure that your belongings inside your bag remain dry, you can protect it with a rain-repellent cover or put on a rain cape instead of your waterproof jacket.

On a trek lasting several days, when it is harder to plan for the weather, consider storing your belongings safely in waterproof pouches. As distances seem longer in the rain, you might also want to take a pair of waterproof overtrousers.

Read more advice

The 10 commandments for hiking safely

Do you know about the 10 commandments for hiking safely

To take full advantage of your hikes, we suggest some safety reminders specifically applying to hiking. Don't forget to tell a friend before you leave, prepare your first aid kit and protect your skin from little creatures. Nothing will stop you from going on the adventure!

The 3 layer technique to stay warm and dry

How to dress for hiking The 3-layer technique!

How can you stay warm and dry to make the most of your day? Discover the 3-layer technique!