Into the Lenticular…

| June 24, 2009
Lenticular clouds are a source of awe and terror for mountaineers.  Awe as they are so surreal looking that they have been mistaken for UFO’s and terror as they signify ripping summit winds.
Courtney Phillips ponders his options as a lenticular cloud form on the 12,800' peak of Mt. Crossen.
Courtney Phillips ponders his options as a lenticular cloud forms on the 12,800′ peak of Mt. Crossen.

Patagonia is a contender for the some of the best lenticular clouds in the world, but in the US, Mt. Shasta has some of the most consistent and unique lenticular clouds around.  Lenticular clouds are particular to mountains as they are formed by water vapor being condensed or squeezed out of the atmosphere as it passes over high peaks in high winds.  In mountaineering terms, lenticulars are warning signs as you can have almost no wind down in the valleys, yet if there is a lenticular cloud on the summit… rat-a-tat-tat hang on to to your hat!  The higher you climb, the windier it will get.

In the case of the video below, we started up Mt. Crossen in fairly nice weather, then halfway up, a lenticular cloud started to form on top of the peak.  Hmmmm.  We kept climbing as there was the option of dumping our loads and coming back for them later, but fortunately the strong winds just held steady and didn’t increase.  It is hard to see, but at the summit we are actually in a lenticular cloud, which, like the eye of a hurricane, doesn’t seem so bad.  The winds were probably in the 30-40 mph range, which is annoying, but not too bad. I wouldn’t make a habit out of climbing directly into lenticulars, but in this case it worked out and was actually kind of fun.

Help support and measure the windspeed with a Brunton Atmospheric Data Center on sale now at Click on the photo below…



Category: Trip Reports

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (6)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Polly says:

    Looks like you are about to take off when you are at the top!

  2. keither says:

    Lenticulars are caused by wind…damn, I learned something today.

    Nice job on this one!

  3. Chris says:

    Rainier has pretty frequent and wicked lenticulars. It can be calm and peaceful at Paradise and even Muir, but up at 12,000 it is blowing 100 and fierce.

  4. Congrats on the successful trip. Well done.

  5. OMR says:

    I’ve heard well-known mountineers make opposing claims, some say lenticulars are a sign of approaching bad weather while others say its a sign of coming stability. Which is correct? Of course, the talking heads on the tube are clueless.

    Good job on your little outing! We working stiffs can only read and dream and then get by doing the weekend thing. Your words and photo’s keep me insprired.

  6. Colin in CA says:

    Nice (very) randomly meeting you and the fam yesterday Andrew.

    Still waiting on further stories/photos/video from AK. I suppose they’ll be forthcoming when you return from family vacation.

%d bloggers like this: