Elk/Thurston Cougar 25 Jan 2015 - ClubTread Community

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post #1 of (permalink) Old 01-26-2015, 10:56 AM Thread Starter
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Default Elk/Thurston Cougar 25 Jan 2015

I don't hike alone because the idea of getting hurt and having no way to contact anyone (very few trails have phone reception) doesn't appeal. I am also afraid of bears and cougars. I'd hiked for a few hours alone once around Cathedral Provincial Park and that's about it. While checking out meetup.com, I saw a sizeable group was heading up to Elk/Thurston, wanted to join them, but the group was full and there was a waiting list of 10 people. I figured it was a Sunday, a nice day and a popular trail - why not hike alone? What could happen?

When I got to the trailhead, I saw one car there. While I was getting ready, another car of 5 people arrived. I started off at 9am. No ice on the trail, it was in the kind of shape you expect to see in the summer.. all the way to the lookout. It felt a bit spooky in there.
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It was 1 1/2 hours after I started, at the Elk lookout that patches of ice began. Microspikes were useful for sure from this point on. Just about at Elk Mountain there was a woman and her dog heading down. I realized at this point that this was the person from the one car in the parking lot. This meant there was no one ahead of me. There was a group not far behind me though. I was above the clouds.
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Every minute or so, I'd yell "HEY BEAR", to let any wildlife know I was there. I was pretty darn loud. So, I was in a forested section, half way between Elk Mountain and the false summit of Thurston (the large cairn). I yelled out HEY BEAR and 5 meters to my left I saw movement and heard a commotion with branches snapping and flying all over the place, then I see the back end of a cougar bounding away. Something came over me, in 5 seconds I became Rambo, I had pull out a knife and my bear spray and I started yelling at the top of my lungs like a sailor.. "F*** YOU" "COME AND GET ME &[email protected]#@..." The cougar stopped about 30 meters away, turned around and looked at me. It looked like it was pondering whether to come back, I made sure I was facing it and yelled even louder. It took off. I considered turning back, but the problem is that meant going the same direction as the cougar, so I carried on. I know cougars are stalkers.. so now I was watching my back. I was yelling very loudly and kept turning around. About 10 mins later, I started shaking and the tears came. I'm guessing I had gone into some kind of adrenalin/shock mode and it was wearing off. Probably looked like a big baby. 15 mins later, there was someone on the trail behind me.. a teenager and he was moving quickly. He had heard me yelling and thought I was in distress (I probably sounded like I was getting murdered!). I must have been quite the sight - wild eyed, with a knife and bear spray at the ready. When I told him about the cougar, he started worrying about the rest of his group behind him as he wasn't sure if they had stuck together or some of them were on their own. He figured I was ok, so he headed back.

Thinking back at the whole incident. That cougar was lying in wait in the bushes. It knew I was coming, cause I had diligently been making noise. I think one of two things were going to happen a) it was going to pounce on me from behind once I had passed it or b) it was going to watch me go by and do nothing. Guess I'll never know which way it was going to go. When I yelled "Hey Bear" directly next to it, it probably thought it had been seen (it hadn't) and if there was going to be an element of surprise - it was gone, so it took off. If I had not yelled Hey Bear and it did pounce on me, I would have had no time at all for the knife or bear spray - it would have meant the end of me. I've heard that if you see a cougar, that's probably the last thing you'll see before you die cause they're super quiet and stealthy, very hard to spot. It's absolutely true. I think there is a decent chance it was going to watch me hike by and do nothing, because that trail is very busy and it's probably seen loads of people before. I saw lots of deer tracks so there was lots to eat up there, no reason to take me out! Still.... wild animals are unpredictable.

Figures the one time I hike alone I see a cougar!!

Anyway, I carried on to the big cairn between Elk Mountain and Thurston
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I started towards the proper summit of Thurston. It was at this point I started postholing up to my knees. I put on my snowshoes and I was STILL postholing. It was crusty snow. The snowshoes still kept me from postholing as much. Then I'd come across stretches of bare patches, so I'd have to take the snowshoes off. I realized quickly that I'd have to put my snowshoes on and take them off constantly. Each time I bent down to deal with my snowshoes, it crossed my mind that I looked smaller than I was. If the cougar was stalking me, this was not good. So, half way between that big cairn and Thurston, I turned back. I figured I had enough excitement for the day.

I saw a lot of people on my way back down. I told some of them about the cougar. It's one of those things where you're not too happy at the time it happens, but you're real glad it happened afterwards - when you're safe and sound. It was the first time I'd ever seen a cougar and it was beautiful and graceful. Much respect!

On my drive out just below the trailhead parking lot there were about 20 cars parked along the road and people with huge fancy long lens cameras. I stopped and asked what they were looking at, apparently a "small owl".

Note: if you lost one microspike on this trail send me a message.

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Learning GPS and wanted to add some GPS info.

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I figured out that I was going 2.3km/hr to Elk Mountain (1420m) and the average grade to that point was 17.5% and it was 4.6 kms one way.

Last edited by idealistic74; 02-01-2015 at 07:01 PM. Reason: adding GPS info
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 01-26-2015, 12:58 PM
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I'm pretty sure the cougar was simply minding his own business.
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 01-26-2015, 02:22 PM
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Cool experience…even though scary Thanks for the pics too. Was wondering what it was looking like up there.

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post #4 of (permalink) Old 01-26-2015, 03:10 PM
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Too bad you never got any pics, unusual you were able to get so close to cougar without it hearing you,with all the noise you were making, perhaps it was taking a kitty nap?
You had me rolling in laughter with your Rambo routine, but good response to a scary scenario.
I would consider yourself lucky to witness a cougar in the wild with no ill effects.
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 01-26-2015, 03:32 PM
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Cougars are usually pretty quiet, even when bolting, so yeah, sounds like you snuck up on it

The owl is a rare visiting Northern Pygmy Owl
http://birding.bc.ca/community/viewt...hern+pygmy+owl
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 01-26-2015, 03:43 PM
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A cougar was one of the possible explanations for Sylvia Apps' disappearance in Strathcona park.

On a side note, there are plenty of cases of people fighting off a cougar attack. You just need to make it think for a second that you might be able to take it.

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post #7 of (permalink) Old 01-26-2015, 04:25 PM
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glad everything ended ok; cougars are stalkers, and although this one was probably minding his own business, you never know

Very nice set of photos as well
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 01-26-2015, 05:06 PM
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You sure got your share of adventure and taste of solo hiking. Cougar attacks average about 5 per year in BC however 90% of attacks occur on Vancouver Island.
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 01-26-2015, 05:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by solo75 View Post
. Cougar attacks average about 5 per year in BC however 90% of attacks occur on Vancouver Island.
And the rest are at Sandbar on Granville Island...
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 01-26-2015, 06:21 PM Thread Starter
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If the cougar was deaf, then yes, I'd venture to say I snuck up on it. I was yelling HEY BEAR too loudly and too frequently (every 30 second to one minute) for it to not know I was coming. I was also in forest, not in the open where wind might have played a role in it not hearing me.

I think it was planning to stay hidden while I walked by, and my yelling right next to it freaked it out into thinking it was "found out". I bet many of us have hiked right by cougars without even knowing it.

The Northern Pygmy Owl looks awesome!

Glad to hear cougar attacks are rare.

I will venture out again....
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post #11 of (permalink) Old 01-26-2015, 06:46 PM
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post #12 of (permalink) Old 01-26-2015, 07:53 PM
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^+1



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post #13 of (permalink) Old 01-26-2015, 11:09 PM
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Just wondering why you would need to yell "Hey bear" in the middle of winter? I hike by myself all the time in an area infested with bears and cougars, and I don't feel any need to yell all the time. Now in the Yukon in mid-summer it is a different story.
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post #14 of (permalink) Old 01-26-2015, 11:53 PM
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Based on the ratio of cougar sightings vs bear sightings on Elk, I'd be more likely to yell "HEY COUGAR HEY COUGAR", but some of the many middle-aged hiking ladies on the trail might take that the wrong way.

Semper fudge
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post #15 of (permalink) Old 01-26-2015, 11:58 PM
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This thread is definitely not going in intended direction
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