Home > Profiles

That Time Lightning Struck Us on Yamnuska

The climbing guide examiner called off the exam until we made it to safety, it was a day that I'll never forget

I was taking by ACMG Apprentice Rock Guide exam about 10 years ago with a dozen other climbers. One of our exam days was spent on the Yamnuska route Grillmair Chimney. The route was first climbed by Hans Gmoser in 1952 and was the first on the mountain. I was lucky to be teamed with Hans’s son, the late Robson Gmoser, who was happy to climb his father’s route on the exam.

Near the top, Robson was in lead-guide role with our examiner on the end of his rope. I was acting as the assistant guide with a fellow examinee below me. On the final pitch with Robson near the top, we received a radio call from fellow guides in the valley. They warned us of a large storm approaching from the side of the mountain we couldn’t see.

Just then, a dark cloud poured over the face and it brought hail and snow. As Robson topped out, the blizzard hit us and lightning struck only a few feet from him. The electricity zapped down our route and the deafening noise reverberated in the chimney as the current made its way to the ground. The zap shocked my partner and she let go of the rock.

We screamed and the water soaked through our clothes. The examiner yelled up, “Robson, are you O.K.?” Robson yelled back, “Yahoooooo.” The examiner told me and my partner that the exam was off until we were safe on top. My partner was visibly distressed, but managed to climb up to me.

Lightning struck again with a louder bang. “Yahoooooo,” yelled Robson. As my partner and I made it to the top, the cloud rolled away and the sun returned. We were cold and soaked. The examiner pointed to the two small summits near the route’s end where the lightning struck. “It was a close one,” said Robson, whose laugh was loud and contagious.

Robson pulled out a flask of whiskey that was meant for the day’s celebration back in town, but it seemed an appropriate time for a toast, and we all took a sip. “Here’s to Yam,” Robson said. “Here’s to Yam,” we all toasted. And then the exam was back on.

A stormy Yamnuska