Head down under tree cover
Sky Crackles with Light
Part of working in these mountains is accepting the constant cycle of storms that roll through the Rockies on a day-to-day basis. In order to be safe, you have to learn to read the signs that these storms show before they unload their torrent upon the earth. The largest indicator that a cloud will turn into a storm is its height. The taller the cloud, the more energy it has in it, and therefore the more potential to have lightning. When hikers see lightning clouds forming in the distance, they need to get down the mountain to below treeline as soon as possible.
Working in these conditions is like playing a game of cat and mouse. We wake-up early in order to hike high up to our work sites, and while we are there we constantly check that those cloudy clusters aren’t about to turn into something more. Since we do almost all of our above treeline, it is important to know when to get down so that we are not caught in the middle of a storm. When they do turn from powdery puffs to crashing cumulus, we head down as quickly as we can, a little mouse running from the cat that is always hungry. This is the game that we play every day up in the high country.
Playing that game makes me have an appreciation for the flora and fauna that call these mountains their home. Whether it is a marmot, mountain goat, or a precious columbine flower, they are all capable of dealing with these harsh storms without retreating to tree line. It makes me realize that we are mere visitor to these areas, just passing through until the conditions become unsavory, where we then have to head down the mountain.