Two ice climbers have survived a grizzly bear attack after they stumbled across its den as they were climbing in Banff National Park on the weekend.
The climbers, Greg Boswell and Nick Bullock, were attempting a route on Mount Wilson, along the Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper.
In a blog post, Bullock said they were bushwhacking through dense forest Sunday evening when the grizzly started chasing Boswell.
“Greg was behind. ‘Bear, aaaaaaargh,’” he wrote. “I spun to watch Greg sprint past me and in hot pursuit was a grizzly. The bear bounded, pulling and pushing the snow with powerful legs. The snow lapped its belly and didn’t appear to slow it.”
Bullock, who’s from Britain, said he ran uphill as fast as he could through deep snow.
“Greg fell on his back and watched the monster closing,” he said. “It jumped. Screaming and shouting, Greg kicked at Ursus arctos horribilis and it bit straight though his brand new boot as if it were a carpet slipper.
“It lunged once more and crunched into his shin, placing a paw on his other leg before lifting him off the ground.”
Boswell managed to fend off the bear by grabbing its mouth, pushing and screaming, said Bullock.
The bear retreated into the bush.
They then packed up, made their way back to their vehicle and drove to the Banff hospital to get Boswell’s leg treated.
Boswell, a well-known climber from Scotland, said in a Facebook post early Tuesday that he was shaken up and sore from the attack.
“All stitched up now and on the mend,” he wrote.
Wildlife experts with Banff National Park interviewed the men and flew into the area Monday to investigate the incident.
Jon Stuart-Smith, a human/wildlife conflict specialist for Parks Canada, said the pair of climbers likely surprised the bear as it was trying to den up for the winter.
“This kind of situation is obviously pretty rare, but it is a potentially dangerous situation,” he said, noting people have been attacked by bears that have been disturbed in their dens.
Officials have closed the area for the rest of the winter to give the bear its space and avoid any further confrontations.
“Given how the climbers have described the incident, it seems like they were unfortunately in the wrong place and surprised the bear,” said Stuart-Smith. “It was trying to protect itself in the place it was trying to den.
“We’re not going to take any further action.”
Although the bear involved in the attack was in its den, he noted it’s not unusual for grizzlies to still be out and about at this time of year.
Stuart-Smith reminded people to take precautions such as making noise, travelling in groups and carrying bear spray.
“We understand that in this type of activity, they may choose not to,” he said, “but we would still recommend that everyone still carry bear spray.”