Attacked by a wind "devil" today

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peakbagger

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I encountered a weird, localized weather phenomenon today. I was on South Moat on the summit eating lunch. For those not familiar with South Moat the summit is a bit of a depressed bowl with a wall of upthrust rock to the east and a large upthrust boulder to the west. In between is a depressed bowl shaped area in between the boulders with distinct north south ridge leading up to it and away from it. The east face is fairly steep open ledges behind the boulders. while the west side is a more gradual tree covered slope, pretty typical in the whites. I was sitting at the base of the west boulder eating something that had been wrapped in a yellow paper wrapper. It was dead calm and I was considering switching to a T shirt. Next thing I know I hear wind rushing nearby, but not feeling it. The closest thing I have experienced is paragliders along a similar ridge in PA. It was dead calm on the top of the ridge. Every so often the top of a chute would appear and suddenly someone in a harness would head upwards like they were on a bungy cord following thermals running vertically upwards. No trace of wind where we were but there was obviously wind not that far away.

Soon after I heard the wind rush, I could see a bit of vapor swirling from behind the east boulder and very quickly I got hit with a wall of wind. I was in the middle of drink from a nalgene bottle and spilled some of it, the wind caught it and it formed a partial swirl in the snow. The paper wrapper went flying up in the air and I expected it was off the side of the mountain. While I was trying to figure out what was going on I saw a hiker and his dog pop up on the approach trail about 150 feet away. The wind was not affecting him and when he walked up I was explaning what was going on as the wind was still swirling around me. He mentioned that when he first saw me he thought a yellow bird was circling directly above me. He watched it stay right there until he almost reached me. I looked up when he pointed at it, the wind stopped like a switch and the wrapper dropped down within a couple of feet of where it started. He never felt the wind to within 30 feet of me, so it was a very localized phenomenon.

My only guess is that with a cold night and bright sun, strong updrafts were forming along the SE side of the mountain and somehow started swirling creating a dust devil with no dust. I think that there must have been a slight wind from the west flowing up and over the summit. It was probably a bit cooler as it has less sun exposure on the west face. This would create a "cap" over the summit and the "devil" went over the east boulders and followed the ground and I happened to be where its interaction with the cap over the summit lined up with the rotation of the "devil"

It was definitely a weird event. I expect someone might ascribe mystic aspects to it. I got my new merino wool top caught on branch and tore a whole in it coming down so I guess it was bad omen :eek:.I used South Moat as a test last spring post broken ankle, I definitely picked up some speed from that trip today.
 
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I've definitely seen those little mini funnels on a couple summits over the years. Updrafts and such and so forth.
 
I encountered a weird, localized weather phenomenon today. I was on South Moat on the summit eating lunch. For those not familiar with South Moat the summit is a bit of a depressed bowl with a wall of upthrust rock to the east and a large upthrust boulder to the west. In between is a depressed bowl shaped area in between the boulders with distinct north south ridge leading up to it and away from it. The east face is fairly steep open ledges behind the boulders. while the west side is a more gradual tree covered slope, pretty typical in the whites. I was sitting at the base of the west boulder eating something that had been wrapped in a yellow paper wrapper. It was dead calm and I was considering switching to a T shirt. Next thing I know I hear wind rushing nearby, but not feeling it. The closest thing I have experienced is paragliders along a similar ridge in PA. It was dead calm on the top of the ridge. Every so often the top of a chute would appear and suddenly someone in a harness would head upwards like they were on a bungy cord following thermals running vertically upwards. No trace of wind where we were but there was obviously wind not that far away.

Soon after I heard the wind rush, I could see a bit of vapor swirling from behind the east boulder and very quickly I got hit with a wall of wind. I was in the middle of drink from a nalgene bottle and spilled some of it, the wind caught it and it formed a partial swirl in the snow. The paper wrapper went flying up in the air and I expected it was off the side of the mountain. While I was trying to figure out what was going on I saw a hiker and his dog pop up on the approach trail about 150 feet away. The wind was not affecting him and when he walked up I was explaning what was going on as the wind was still swirling around me. He mentioned that when he first saw me he thought a yellow bird was circling directly above me. He watched it stay right there until he almost reached me. I looked up when he pointed at it, the wind stopped like a switch and the wrapper dropped down within a couple of feet of where it started. He never felt the wind to within 30 feet of me, so it was a very localized phenomenon.

My only guess is that with a cold night and bright sun, strong updrafts were forming along the SE side of the mountain and somehow started swirling creating a dust devil with no dust. I think that there must have been a slight wind from the west flowing up and over the summit. It was probably a bit cooler as it has less sun exposure on the west face. This would create a "cap" over the summit and the "devil" went over the east boulders and followed the ground and I happened to be where its interaction with the cap over the summit lined up with the rotation of the "devil"

It was definitely a weird event. I expect someone might ascribe mystic aspects to it. I got my new merino wool top caught on branch and tore a whole in it coming down so I guess it was bad omen :eek:.I used South Moat as a test last spring post broken ankle, I definitely picked up some speed from that trip today.
I actually had to look at the name (yours) on this thread. About 30 years ago, the exact same thing happened to me at the exact spot you mentioned. Not sure in your case, but in my case, the wind tunnel was making a hissing/whistling sound, it was enough wind to move me just a bit, but not like a sustained wind on Washington would, like you describe it was very isolated. When it happened to me, I described it as a tornado the size of a Christmas tree. At the time, I did some research and the closet thing that I came up with was a Dust Devil.
 
Interesting, I expect there are terrain features that encourage it but the odds of it happening at a specific moment is probably slim to none. But it probably backs up that I didnt take a trip over the state line before the hike and load up with edibles.
 
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