What to do in case of unexpected summer showers in the mountains

 We always imagine that during mountaineering in summer the weather should be beautiful and sunny, but that is not always the case. In the higher zones of the mountains, in summer, as a result of the strong solar heating of the vast plateaus and rocky areas changes happen. Namely, after a certain period of time (until noon or later) due to reflection and radiation from the already exposed huge rock masses the air heats up to a temperature higher than the surrounding atmosphere. 

As a result of this phenomenon, atmospheric instability occurs very quickly which is manifested by the rapid movement of heated mountain air up into the atmosphere. This, in contact with atmospheric moisture, causes clouds to form and thus causes short-term and local storms that can often be accompanied by heavy rain, hail, thunderstorms, wind, and a drop in ambient temperature.

To avoid such occurrences and as mountaineers to not suffer any consequences from these types of conditions, I recommend the following:

  • Before going on tour, always follow the detailed weather forecast for the mountain that you want to visit, as well as the forecast for the wider region in the upcoming days

  • Even if the weather prognosis is optimal, always assume that there is a chance of unexpected rain

  • In your backpack, always carry appropriate equipment for protection from summer rains and low temperatures

  • Protection from moisture and rain means wearing in your backpack waterproof and windproof jacket, pants, shoe covers, and hat. Also, when choosing a backpack for mountaineering the advantage is with backpacks that have build-it rain protection and always obligatory aluminum foil for first aid.

  • In case of rain, you must keep in mind that the paths become wet and slippery and thus you need to pay more attention to the movements; reduce the pace of movement when needed, and adapt to the conditions on the ground.

In the middle of a thunderstorm

If you are hit by a thunderstorm, you should immediately turn off your mobile devices and all other devices that work with a signal or transmission (such as Bluetooth devices, smartwatches, iPods, hands-free, GPS). Additionally, if you are wearing jewelry like rings, earrings, necklaces from gold, silver, or other metal you should take them off and put them in a plastic bag that you will leave at least 50 meters away from you and ideally on a higher place than you are. 

If you have mountaineering sticks, they should be put in the same place with the metal ends on top improvising a lighting rod that would protect you. When the storm passes, you can take your things back.

If you decide to keep walking in the rain and wind, then you must protect yourself from moisture. The reason is that walking in the rain in summer, while you are still moving and you are warmed up is not a big problem, as when it is when you stop walking. Then, hypothermia can occur with all its side effects such as decreased body temperature, muscle tremors, decreased mobility and sensitivity of the fingers and extremities, skin stiffness, and all of this contributes to the reduction of your motoric skills and reaction time. All of these things can increase the chances of an accident.
To sum up, the actual mountaineering might be the easiest part of the whole process. What you need to pay attention to the most is planning thoroughly before even making a step in the mountains. Make sure that you check all these things and have the needed equipment because trust me, it can save your life. 

Written by: Petar Nolev, mountain guide and rescue service

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Safety precautionary tips for mountaineering in summer