8 people struck by lightning on Mount Bierstadt, 3 taken to hospital

Multi-agency response on Guanella Pass

GEORGETOWN, Colo. - Eight people and one dog were hit by lightning on 14,060-foot Mount Bierstadt in Clear Creek County at about 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

"All victims are on their way down, some with assistance needed," the sheriff's office said at 2 p.m.

The Alpine Rescue team told 7NEWS that everyone hiked off the peak on their own to the trailhead. They identified eight victims; three people were taken by ambulance to metro area hospitals. One of them was in serious condition and two had non-life threatening injuries. Five others refused further treatment.

The dog that was struck died on the mountain. It was not recovered Sunday afternoon because of the danger of additional lightning.

"Some of these fine rescue people will probably go up and get the dog probably early (Monday) morning," said Rick Albers, Clear Creek County Sheriff. "That way they don't have to deal with the lightning."

The lighting struck about 500 feet below the summit of Mount Bierstadt, the sheriff's office said.

Responders from the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office, Clear Creek EMS, Summit County Search and Rescue, Gilpin County EMS, Clear Creek Office of Emergency Management, Clear Creek Fire Authority, Clear Creek Advocates, and Rocky Mountain Rescue responded to the scene. 

Twenty-seven members of Alpine Rescue were also called in to assist getting the injured off the mountain. Other hikers helped the injured before first responders arrived.

Ryan Justus and Taylor Craft thought they beat the weather by starting their hike at 7:30 a.m.

"When that first strike happened, I could feel like a tingling in my fingers. I could feel more static in the air, so I tried to stay as low as I could," said Craft. "I could feel it in my metal hat point, and then I could feel it pulling my hair up as well."

"We couldn't see where they were hitting, but we could definitely see that they were coming down right on top of us," said Justus. "Everybody ducks. There were probably 30 of us in this group and we all duck down."

Shasta Johnson was hiking nearby, with her dog Axel, when she heard about the lightning strike and came to help.

"(To) see if there is anything we can do to help assist," she said. "Whatever was needed."

A hiker who had gone up Bierstadt earlier said there were about 100 people still on the trail at about 11:30 a.m. , including some on the summit and some still on their way to the top. That's when thunder and lightning rolled in.

"It appears lightning developed shortly after 11, peaked before 11:30, then dissipated," said Storm Station7 Meteorologist Matt Makens. "There were 16 strikes near Mount Bierstadt, a handful were right on the mountain."

Bierstadt is a popular first "14er" for many hikers because of the easy access from the parking lot at the summit of nearby Guanella Pass.

Lightning fatalities/injuries by Colorado county since 1980

*The story has been corrected to reflect eight people struck by lightning. Previous information from the sheriff's office said 15 injured.

Print this article Back to Top