Bear with me

It's funny how things go isn't it? The capacity of coincidence, the ability of the seemingly serendipitous to surprise us never ceases to amaze.

I was moaning about it for several days after, my nose being out of joint, but it could be that the curmudgeonly climber who dressed me down in front of his friends the other week, has just saved my skin. Who would have thought that the first time I go on the mountains with my bear bell, I would actually see a bear? I'm pretty sure they don't work how it now appears. Yes, I'm certain that bears, on hearing a shiny new bell, don't coming running out to play. What a coincidence; my first climb after buying my first bell... and I see my first bear. At the time of the sighting, I almost made like a bear and shat in the woods, but now that I've had time to calm down, I can already feel the cold sweat panic sliding into a pub tale.

As I had done a month before, I caught the early train to Kamaishi in the hope of climbing a mountain before nightfall. I didn't make it to the top last time, mostly because of a recent snowfall, but also because the route up had been a bit circuitous. I had though found a much quicker route down, and today that became my trail up. With a little more daylight to play with I had no doubts about making it.

About an hour and half into my walk, two thirds or so of the way up the hill, and around the point I had reached last time, I quite by chance stumbled upon the lens cap I had lost on that occasion. I wasn't even looking for it to be honest, as I couldn't really remember where I'd lost it, but it was mine... that size is not common, and this path is most definitely not beaten.

As I stooped to pick it up I noticed some droppings a couple of metres to my left. Not deer which I'd seen in various locations all along the route, but bigger, almost pat-ish, with some seeds clearly visible in the mix. As I looked I noticed that, to my horror, the droppings were steaming a little in the late afternoon cool.

The droppings were fresh. Such a blast of fear I can't ever remember having before in the hills. I froze, and started to look slowly about, reaching for my bear bell as I did so. My hand found the bell on my rucksack at almost the same time I found the bear with my eye. Up ahead, some 60-80 metres in front of me on the trail, the bear was lumbering slowly away. Very slowly. I shook my bell a little to nudge her along. At that point the ridge cleaves. To the right, and up out of the treeline it rises towards the summit. To the left it falls away to the west. Without ever looking back at me, she dropped lightly into the v and out of sight.

And that was it, that was my sighting... I didn't see her again. Fleeting to say the least, but man was I as jumpy as fuck for the rest of my walk! I got spooked out of my skin by a beautiful rock ptarmigan a little further up, and I swear to god the cold sweat didn't really subside until I was in my hotel room.

In fact, I can't believe I managed to stay calm enough to take the photographs of the amazing panorama the summit afforded me. Needless to say I didn't get any shots of the bear. Apart from the adrenaline one that is.


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