On Nov. 30, 2015, Scottish climber Greg Boswell and British alpinist Nick Bullock were attacked by a grizzly bear in the Canadian Rockies. If you’ve never heard this story, remember it when heading up high thinking that you’re not in bear country because of winter conditions.
After climbing the “approach” pitches to the 500-metre mixed route called Dirty Love on Mount Wilson on the Icefields Parkway, the two climbers waded uphill in deep snow. After an M5 (a climbing grade that indicates ice tools and crampons on rock and ice) pitch, they thrashed through dense forest and hiked up a steep snow slope for two more hours before they reached the start of the route proper.
At 7:30 p.m., Boswell and Bullock turned around with intentions on returning to climb the route in two days. They were there to pack a trail that day. Bullock started down with Boswell behind, both with headlamps. Almost at the rappels, Boswell stopped to fill his water bottle near their stashed ropes and ice gear. Just then, a bear ran out of the woods towards the two tired U.K. mountaineers.
Bullock ran away and Boswell fell over. The bear jumped on Boswell and started to bite his leg. Remember, this took place hours from the road on a mountain between Banff and Lake Louise. There’s no cell reception and nobody around. It was cold, snowy and moonless. Boswell kicked and screamed, “Nick, help, it’s got me, aaaargh, help, Nick, Nick, help!”
Boswell used his hands to open the bear’s mouth from his leg and then ran to Bullock. They flailed through the forest, hearts pounding. After hiding under a tree, they decided to find their ropes and rappel to safety. Boswell was bleeding, and they were both nearly hypothermic.
Bullock talked about the epic later: “Reaching the deserted road, getting into the Jeep, I looked at the time: 12:45 a.m., nearly five hours after the attack. At 2:30 a.m., Greg and I walked through the doors of the brightly lit Banff hospital. This story was going to wake them up.”
That night, Boswell had surgery and Bullock had a stiff drink. They both made a full recovery.
From bears to another serious threat. It’s not long now until avalanches will start sliding down mountains. Climbers, skiers, snowshoers and hikers beware.
If you’ve never taken an avalanche course and you intend on heading into the mountains to ice climb or ski, then take an avalanche course. The more tools in your mountain toolbox, the better your chances are at making it home in one piece. Try your hardest not to die in an avalanche this year.
If you are well-versed in terrain traps and slope stability, then start practicing with your avalanche beacons, and be sure that everything has new batteries. Did you know that your cell phone can affect your beacon? Take an avalanche course, eh.
There’s bears and avalanches in them thar hills, so watch your back.