There are a lot of mountaineering routes that go up the downwind side of a mountain. Like the CMC route on Mt. Moran in the Tetons or the Gooseneck Glacier route on Gannet Peak.

The added danger of a route like this is that weather could build up on the upwind side, out of sight and then roll in with very little warning. While camped on the CMC route, halfway up the mountain, a thunderstorm rolled in with maybe ten minutes of warning.

Are there good ways to predict incoming weather without the ability to see the clouds coming?

  • This might depend a lot on the specific region. Anyway, I can usually tell by the strength and cadence of the wind (in the regions I usually visit).
    – Roflo
    Aug 24, 2016 at 14:15
  • Agreed to @Roflo. Predicating the weather requires a lot of experience in a specific region and a lot of weather observation. Around here where I live, I know the mountains very well and can often get the weather right (mostly) but I've been caught short in other places. Checking the weather forecast to have an idea of what's coming up and keeping an eye on it would be the best but just guessing from looking around might not be as safe.
    – Desorder
    Aug 24, 2016 at 20:56

2 Answers 2


I don't think there is any pat answer to this - weather patterns can vary widely by region and by season. All I can suggest is some commonsense approaches:

  1. Check the weather forecast before your climb, and on your phone or pocket radio during the climb if you have reception. In the US, you could also use weather radio.
  2. Ask locals and rangers about local patterns and what signs to watch out for. For example in the Western Alps local guides have given me very specific advice about the warning signs of afternoon thunderstorms on a specific range at a specific time of year.
  3. Carry an altimeter and watch for sudden drops in pressure.
  4. Stay alert to obvious signs such as the wind backing, a lowering cloud ceiling or fast developing cumulonimbus formations.
  • 1
    In addition to checking beforehand a cellphone or small weather radio on the trip will alert you provided there is service/batteries and in the case of the radio, reporting for the particular area you are in. Overall this is a tough problem and many lighting strikes have occurred in similar approaches in places like the Grand Tetons.
    – Glenn
    Sep 1, 2016 at 13:13
  • @Glenn - the radio is a good idea - I'll add it to the answer. More likely to have reception than the cellphone, I'd imagine. Sep 1, 2016 at 18:52
  • While there may be reports on standard AM/FM I was specifically talking about weather radio: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weather_radio
    – Glenn
    Sep 1, 2016 at 19:37

It's true that it always depends on the area you are in. But something that always indicates that a thunderstorm is coming, is that the bird are flying very close to the ground. If there are Birds on the Mountain you want to climb, you should watch them. If they are less then 100m (I guess 300ft?) above the ground, you probably start heading downhill. In my experience this warns you up to two hours before the thunder starts.

  • Is this true? Do you have any references. It sounds very interesting but I'm a little skeptical
    – user2766
    Sep 1, 2016 at 16:24
  • 1
    Yes, it is. I from Germany so I only got German references. But I googled a little bit and got this. It's not much, but here in Germany, Google filters the big english references and puts german ones instead
    – Niqql
    Sep 2, 2016 at 10:49
  • while i do believe there is some truth to this, the source in the comment is labeled Nature Myths at the bottom and also includes this.....: There is a method cowboys use to tell the weather. They observe their horse's tail. If the tail is dry -- the weather's clear If the tail is wet -- it's raining If the tail is white -- it's snowing If the tail is burning -- it's hot If the tail is horizontal -- it's windy If the tail is gone -- there's a hurricane If the horse is gone -- there's a tornado!
    – Nate W
    Jan 2, 2020 at 22:00

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