Encounter with a Grizzly on Buck Mountain

When: September 2007
Partners: Just me, mama grizzly and her cub
Route: (Ascent) East Ridge - Class 3 / (Descent) East Face - Class 2-3
Mileage/Gain: 12/5,200

Big, bad and beautiful Buck

My buddy Walt Hutton and I made plans to join forces in Grand Teton National Park for a climb of the classic CMC route on Mount Moran. Arriving in the park a couple days before Walt was scheduled to show up, I spent my time playing tourist and exploring a bit of the backcountry.

Starting out for Buck Mountain one morning after securing permits for our climb of Mount Moran the following couple of days, I jogged most of the way up the beautiful trail to the base of the mountain, where the trail disappears into slabs and scree. From there, I hopped on the east ridge and glided up to the summit. The views, as one might imagine, were terrific.

Always a fan of loops, I decided to descend the east face. Shortly after dropping below the summit, I ran into the first humans of the day - two men having a bit of difficulty finding the easiest route up through the occasional troubles the face was giving them. I pointed out what I felt to be the optimal route for them to follow.
Static Peak from near the base of Buck's East Ridge

Bidding the boys farewell, I continued down. Soon reaching the trail that would lead me back to my vehicle, I began to jog. Eventually coming out of the forest and into an open meadowy area of thigh-high bushes, I was moving at a quick pace when, thirty feet in front of me, a female grizzly bear sticks her head up, just barely showing above the level of the brush. I slammed on the brakes and waited to see what would happen. Do I walk backward? Do I throw rocks? Should I do absolutely nothing?!?

As I'm contemplating these things, the bear started to wander off the trail. And just then I notice her cub! Tiny, adorable, fuzzy - with a potentially volatile, and highly protective, mother. I went with option #3 - Do nothing.

And just like that, the cub stands up on her hind legs to grab berries above her head. Mama follows suit. And I mosey on my way...watching my back the whole way back to the vehicle!

And just under 6 hours car-to-car - not too shabby for a guy who almost got his throat chewed open!