Scottish winter hero Greg Boswell was attacked by a grizzly while he and Nick Bullock were sussing out the walk-in to an M7 mixed route in the Canadian wilderness between Lake Louise and Jasper.
Greg in particular is lucky to be alive, having, I quote Nick Bullock: “grabbed the bear’s mouth and prised apart the jaws”, which were sunk into his shin, before running away leaving “bloody footprints" from where the bear had bitten through his boot like it was a “carpet slipper”.
In a Facebook post, Greg made it clear that it wasn’t a one-man battle and said he “owed his life” to Nick:
“I was in shock after the incident and didn't know what to do. Nick got me out of there and drove me to the hospital! It wasn't a one man mission to stay alive like the media is portraying, it was a friend doing as much as he could in a crazy situation to keep his friend from dying! I probably would have died of hypothermia or blood loss if he hadn't kept me going. My stupid idea was to climb a tree and wait until daylight. 12 hours in -20'c and with some serious bleeding to my lower leg is not the best way to spend the night.”
The pair were sussing out the walk-in to a 500m, 12-pitch, Alpine route high on Mount Wilson, hoping to make the second ascent. The mixed appeal of the route, according to Bullock, was: “The very technical approach which includes several mixed pitches and approximately four hours of slog before the bottom of the huge gash, something like Cenotaph Corner on steroids.”
The walk-in took the first ascenscionists 23 hours, and it took Boswell and Bullock longer than they’d hoped. Bushwhacking through the forest in the middle of the night, having slogged through deep snow and climbed loose mixed pitches up to M5 in the pitch dark, they finally found the base of the route and turned back, thinking they'd be back to climb it in two days. It was at this point that you can imagine the creepy music starting up...
Describing the attack, Nick Bullock wrote in his blog:
“I ran uphill as fast as the deep snow allowed. Greg fell on his back and watched the monster closing. 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. I’m not sure at this point what other people would do, but Boswell is Boswell and the bear just didn’t appreciate this, he grabbed the bear’s mouth and prized apart the jaws, pushing, and screaming… 'Nick, Nick, help, its got me…'”
"I stopped running, and hearing my friend, the terror, the pleading – my survival instinct subdued. I stopped and turned, but I’ll tell the truth, the thought of running back to face the bear armed with only a ski pole slowed me, in fact, armed with a bazooka would have still slowed me, but Greg was shouting my name, how could I just stand. I took steps forward and out of the dark a shape ran at me. I screamed, the skin at the back of my throat tore. But the shape was Greg, screaming and running and shouting. I looked into his ashen face and saw something I had never seen. We both screamed and ran into the woods following our tracks.”
The nightmare wasn't over. Crawling through the forest, trying to find their stashed ropes so they could abseil the cliffs below, and constantly expecting an attack from the thick darkness, the pair then took a wrong turn and had no choice but to retrace their steps towards the site of the attack once again. Finally they found their ropes and abseiled off.
Describing the walk-out, Bullock wrote: "In the distance wolves howled. Following Greg’s bloody footprints, I wondered at what distance bears can smell blood..."
At 2:30am the pair entered Banff Emergency Hospital, where doctors set about fixing the five huge holes in Greg’s shin.
Greg had BMC insurance, and we wish him (and Nick) all the best in recovering.
READ: More about Greg in this BMC interview
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