In May 2001, Cinta and I planned to spend a weekend climbing at a few crags on the Bruce Peninsula. In approximately 15 years of climbing in this area, we had never seen a bear at any of the local crags. This weekend proved to be different.

We first met one at Disneyland on Saturday, a huge ferocious looking beast about 50 feet away that thrashed and grumbled in a grove and blocked the trail to the cliff. Forgetting all established protocol when contacting a bear, we immediately ran like mad, finally stopping down the trail. We cowered behind some trees. While I searched for my camera that was as usual, somewhere at the bottom of the pack, I glanced over at Cinta. She looked more ferocious than the bear as she was brandishing a baseball bat like stick and looked ready for battle. I realized that her approach made far more sense than mine. We recovered our composure and continued our retreat. We eventually climbed at the other end of the cliff.

When camping in bear country, always hang  your food in a tree to be safe.

Sunday we visited TV Tower. We walked over the top and planned to rappel around the ladder area. I lowered the packs down first and as usual they got caught in a tree. No problem I thought, I would simply free them on rappel. Just then, we heard strange grunting and wheezing followed by crashing through the trees below us. We warily looked over the cliff and saw another bear appearing to retreat through the forest. However, the bear turned and charged the cliff. He paced below us, braying, grunting and growling and made threatening gestures with his paws. This beast appeared larger and more ferocious than the bear that we saw the previous day. I stared into its eyes. They appeared cold and unfeeling. The bear seemed to become more enraged.

We weighed our options. Running was attractive, but our car keys were in the packs that were stuck in a tree about 15 feet down the cliff. We had nowhere to run. Fighting was not an option, nor was putting up a brave front to scare the bear, since we were both petrified. Fortunately, there was no easy way up the cliff near here but we were not sure what grade a bear could climb. Just then the bear wandered into the bush. We wiped the sweat off our brows and began to breathe again. This was premature as the bear charged again. Over the next half-hour the bear charged the cliff a few more times.

In Western Canada, a ranger once told me to yell "Yo Bear" repeatedly when in bear country. This does not work. She was an idiot. We jangled our rap devices and continued yelling as we tried to free the packs to no avail.

Finally the bear seemed to get bored with all this and went into the trees below and laid down. I took this opportunity to rappel 15 feet down, freed the packs and then climbed out. We retreated and drove home as we had already experienced a good adrenaline rush and didn't feel the need to climb.

I have heard that our Native People sometimes creep up on a bear and smack it on its rear end and then run away. I am not sure why they do this. Maybe it is a test of courage or  simply an exciting game, not unlike climbing. Perhaps I will try it one day, when climbing gets boring or if we lose access to the crags. It certainly would elicit a powerful adrenaline rush.

See Yo at the cliffs,

Bob Bennell

June 2001

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