Monday, May 25, 2015

Bear encounter on Grinell point (Sunday, May 24th).

Rick Thomas and I were about 2/3 of the way up to the ridge above the mine when we reached a short break in the class 3 ledges that we were ascending, reaching a wide rubble covered slope. We traversed diagonally upwards and to the left and reached the base of the next ledge system. I suddenly heard Rick swearing and asked Rick what was up. It's a bear, he answered (with a few more expletives to be sure). Where, I asked. Right behind us, he answered! A grizzly with 2 very small cubs was only 20 ft or so behind Rick, following our direction of travel.

Photo 1. Cropped photo of sow grizzly taken from a distance afterwards
It really seemed like they came out of nowhere. We were making noise but lately had been concentrating on the task at hand (the steep scrambling) and unfortunately it seemed that our direction of upward travel had intercepted with the bear's traverse. If only we had hollered a bit more maybe we would never have gotten that close to each other.

It was too late to get out of the way but I wanted to give them some space - I don't really remember exactly what i was thinking but I am pretty sure I was about to make a break for it about to clamber quickly upslope and maybe had taken an abrupt hop or two upwards when Rick calmly reminded me not to run and to get my bearspray out. (Rick was between me and the bears and kept calm the entire time... balls of f'ing steel!) We climbed up onto the first ledge and climbed about 5 ft up and at that point basically waited together and gave mama bear the next move. Christ almighty, what a situation. Hopefully they would avoid us, go down and around us or maybe even take off in the other direction.

Unfortunately she and the cubs kept right on coming. She climbed on up, directly following us onto the same ledge whoomping and barking, the cubs also whoomping and barking, clearly worried about us. She would take a step towards us, stand up aggressively and then suddenly down on all fours again, trying to figure us out. She came close enough that we could have blasted her with the bearspray (she was within 10 ft) but she never charged and we had time to climb down off the ledge and as we did so, she traversed directly above us on the ledge. We slowly walked downslope and then next thing you know she and the cubs had clambered effortlessly upwards over 50 ft of class IV terrain in a matter of seconds. Amazing. Unfortunately, that was our direction of travel too so our climb was over. The entire encounter probably only lasted a couple of minutes but holy s*$t!

One last note - I forgot to put the safety back on my bearspray and I took a direct hit to my side as I tried to holster my canister. I got some orange liquid directly on my torso, arms and a bit on my face. Not to be a sissy about it after the bear encounter, but that my friends was just about one of the most painful experiences I have ever had. We dropped down and checked out the mine, then followed the old mine trail downwards towards Grinnell glacier to get a bit of hike in. Beautiful day to be outside, after all.


Photo 3. Mt. Gould

Photo 4. Traversing a snowy slope to check out the abandoned mine

Photo 5. The mine shaft

Photo 6. Yours truly with Gould and Angel wing in the background.

Photo 7. Poking around the mine entrance



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