Climbing Tragedy Reminder Of Mother Nature's Power In the summer of 2010, 17 climbers set out for the summit of the Grand Teton, the highest point in Wyoming's Teton range. Storms caught the climbers on exposed slopes and lightning strikes left many disoriented and some temporarily paralyzed. One climber dead.
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Climbing Tragedy Reminder Of Mother Nature's Power

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Climbing Tragedy Reminder Of Mother Nature's Power

Climbing Tragedy Reminder Of Mother Nature's Power

Climbing Tragedy Reminder Of Mother Nature's Power

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/139551365/139551358" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. iStockphoto.com hide caption

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Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

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In the summer of 2010, 17 climbers — nearly all experienced — set out for the summit of the Grand Teton, the highest point in Wyoming's Teton range.

The hikers set out on what appeared to be a relatively clear morning, until two fronts converged and unleashed a storm that caught the climbers on exposed slopes and ridges. Lightning strikes left many disoriented and temporarily paralyzed. One climber died.

Betsy Smith was one of the climbers on that trip. She was struck by lightning.

"It didn't hurt right when it hit you," she tells NPR's Neal Conan. "Everything kind of went into this slow-motion effect ... And you would watch as your friends were falling over, and then not realizing that you had hit the ground, too."

Betsy and her fellow climbers did all the right things to lessen their risk of serious injury, says Brad Wieners, who wrote about the tragedy for Sports Illustrated. They removed and distanced themselves from their metal gear, and assumed the safest position possible: "Sort of making a closed-circuit of your body ... Bringing your feet together, your ankles together, so that the energy might flash over your body, and not pass through it."

Betsy Smith lost a finger and a significant amount of muscle mass after being struck, but has since resumed climbing — albeit with an extra dose of caution. "If there is any chance of rain, whatsoever, I'm not going to be out there right now ... It's a much scarier adventure for me."