The last thing you ever want to see while you’re on a hike is a thunderstorm, especially in the mountains. It happened to me a number of years ago, while hiking around Upper Kananaskis Lake on what was supposed to a clear, sunny day. We still had an hour of hiking to do to get back to the trailhead when the skies turned black and deluged us with rain, freezing hail, and thunder and lightning. The last straw was the lightning strike at the south end of the dam, just as we were crossing in the middle.
So I wasn’t unhappy when a hike I was signed up for got cancelled due to thunderstorms in the forecast. But at the same time, I still thought it would be cool to get some photos of thunderstorms in the mountains – just not out on the trail. So I drove out to Upper Kananaskis Lake again, touring along the way. I stopped at Barrier Lake, Wasootch, Kananaskis Village, and finally got to the lake, patiently waiting for the promised thunderstorms. There was plenty of sunshine through the day, so I got to enjoy visiting some spots I had never stopped at before, and some I don’t get to visit very often.
Dark clouds finally started to show from the south around 4:30 in the afternoon. Ironically, we probably could have done the hike as planned and been off the trail before they showed up, but there is no way to predict these things, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
The clouds were taking their sweet time, so I decided to drive south towards them, stopping frequently to take more photos.
It wasn’t until I got to Highwood Pass Day Use that thunder and lightning finally started to be visible and audible, still to the south. This is the trailhead for Ptarmigan Cirque, among others. Plenty of people were heeding the warning signs and returning to their vehicles. But some people just don’t take a hint. Even as the storm broke over us, there were plenty of empty vehicles still in the parking lot, their owners presumably still somewhere out on the trails.
I continued south, stopping whenever I could to shoot more photos, until the storm finally broke at the south end and passed overhead. I returned home via the scenic Longview route, well satisfied with my storm-chasing day.
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