Lightning bolt 'must have been like Gandalf at Weathertop’

The Ben Lomond plinth and alidade at the summit. Photo: Mountain Scene
The Ben Lomond plinth and alidade at the summit. Photo: Mountain Scene
A lightning bolt has blown a plinth and alidade atop Queenstown’s Ben Lomond to smithereens.

Following two recent thunder and lightning storms in the Wakatipu, Queenstown geographer Phil Parent says he hiked up Ben Lomond, behind Queenstown, on September 30.

But when when he reached the summit, ‘‘socked in and cloudy’’, he became disorientated because ‘‘there was no plinth’’.

‘‘There was about 25 centimetres of wind-packed snow at the top and I couldn’t see any traces of concrete, schist or the bronze range finder.

‘‘One small chunk of concrete, about the size of a bowling ball, was exposed in the lee of a wind-drift.’’

It was so smooth his initial thought was Department of Conservation had heli-lifted it off — ‘‘or aliens’’ removed it.

‘‘But both were clearly absurd.’’

Parent contacted DoC, which confirmed there hadn’t been any official activity up there.

On Tuesday he went back up to the summit and, in the snow melt, spied a remnant of the viewfinder about 20m from the top.

‘‘Looking up I saw another, larger piece.

‘‘They had been ripped apart and blown away.’’

He could see where the plinth had been at the summit, but there was nothing left.

‘‘In fact, the force of the lightning had shattered the schist ledge leaving deep horizontal fissures.

‘‘Must have been a massive jolt — kind of like Gandalf at Weathertop.’’

There’s no sign anywhere, though, of the large bronze disc, which was inscribed with the names and elevations of surrounding peaks, which Parent suspects was ‘‘blown completely off the mountain’’.



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