DAPHNE SMITH'S COUGAR ATTACK (1970)
|Date:||June 14, 1970, about 3:00 p.m.|
Sinclair Creek in Kootenay National Park, B.C. roughly 3 miles from Radium Highway. Probable or possible reasons for attack:
A group of us had gone up a trail to Kindersley Pass and climbed up onto a mountain ridge above the pass. During the descent we split Into 2 groups: fast people and slow people, I travelling with the former. Our plans were to look for a trail along Sinclair Creek, which was shown on our maps. However, this trail was almost non-existent and we had trouble following it. We crossed an avalanche slope, covered with the most gorgeous avalanche lilies. I sat down to enjoy this beautiful spot as the sun had emerged and I assumed the rear group would be along shortly. However, unknown to me, due to the difficulty of finding the trail, they had chosen to return via our ascent route. So after a brief stop I proceeded at a rather fast pace by myself hoping to catch the people ahead. Being a little nervous - there was evidence of bears (plenty of fresh manure) - I tried to make as much noise as I could, whistling and singing as I ran. Crossing another avalanche where considerable snow remained, I determined by the tracks that the others had followed the creek. However, I feared the possibility of canyons via this route and was concerned with the fact that I must take every precaution to avoid injury. I, therefore, climbed up a bit and was running through the woods (when possible) and without knowing it, overtook and passed the front group.
Suddenly, I heard a noise in the bushes possibly 100 yards ahead. A mountain lion approached on the run, fangs bared, tail twitching, snarling viciously. I knew I must not run. Standing dead still on the bottom of an incline, I froze in a state of terror. The enraged animal stopped about 10-12 feet in front of me and a little above. Desperately I tried to undo the belly band of my pack, hoping to use It as a shield. We stared at each other for maybe a minute. I knew it was going to pounce. The twitching tail and bared fangs left no doubt of this. By a sheer miracle my timing was exactly correct, I dodged to the right as it swiftly pounced. The claws of one paw tore the flesh on my left arm below the elbow and I was knocked down. I jumped up immediately, my pack now held 'in front of me for a shield, hoping to stave off what seemed to be an inevitable second attack. No way could I fight this enraged animal. Snarling, fangs bared, twitching tail - I had to save my own life. To run would be certain death. Immediately I commenced to plead for my life, talking as one does to an angry dog. Within minutes the tail moved slower and slower, the snarls terminated in a big yawn. Desperately I pleaded - trying to get the fact across that I meant no harm to it or Its young - just to please let me go. As long as I talked and stood motionless it stood and stared, but the slightest movement during the first 10 or 15 minutes would cause the tail twitching and bared fangs. I was in the worst possible position, being between the animal and where it had come from. If there were kittens up there in the bush, I just had to move out of that direct line. Possibly 15 minutes elapsed as I talked non-stop, trying at 'Intervals to make a slight movement, and then I was allowed to slowly reach Into my pack with my right arm, cautiously pull my rain coat out, switch pack from arm to arm and get the garment on. It seemed to be sniffing the air now, never taking its eyes off me. With horror I imagined it was sniffing my blood and exposed flesh. I hoped the raincoat would possibly help reduce the smell of blood and also provide more protection in the event of a second attack.
Possibly another 30 minutes elapsed talking continuously, never breaking the eye contact, then the cougar allowed me to slowly, noiselessly, step down sideways to the left. Not daring to even crackle a twig, I cautiously backed down about 12 feet to a pile of deadfall. By this time the cougar seemed pacified. But It refused to go away. Slowly moving forward it sniffed at the blood on the leaves and grass. That caused some anxious seconds. Never taking its eyes of me it slowly approached to within about 6 feet, I think. Then still watching lane It lay down. That was a relief. I knew I had to slowly back out, somehow get over a knee-high deadfall without taking my eyes off my captor and without making a noise. It was a magnificent animal, obviously quite healthy. As it lay there and gazed at me it seemed to be saying "I can wait as long as you can - I've got you!" I was determined to back off somehow - if I had to back over deadfall and through creeks all night. Never had I been so lonely and wishing to God somebody would come but knowing no one would as I thought the group ahead would be out to the highway long ago.
Slowly I was raising MY right leg in an effort to retreat over the immediate obstacle. Then I heard shouts. Thank God. It must be 7 o'clock. They've come to look for me. But dare I yell? If distracted, the cougar could rip me to bits and they would never know. No time for debating so I yelled, "Help" in a low-pitched voice. Still no sign from the cougar and no answer from below. A third and louder "Help". Then the shrill blast of a whistle. Like a flash the cougar jumped to its feet and ran off up the mountain. Needless to say I deserted the area, racing over windfall, etc., toward the voices.
Actually it was only about 4 o'clock. My friends had become fouled up in a canyon and had lost time. They hadn't been out to the highway yet and didn't even know that I was missing. Two people ran ahead to get the Warden or whatever help they could find while others applied first aid to the lacerations.
Someone else took my pack and we Iiiked out the remaining 3 miles to the highway. Just as we clambered up onto the road the R.C.M.P. and local Warden arrived and I was whisked off to the Invermere Hospital in an R.C.M.P. car - dome light flashing and siren wailing. My first and I hope my last ride with the Royal Canadian Mounted police.
Daphne was an active and enthusiastic member of the Ramblers for more than 16 years. Cancer finally took Daphne In November 1979. She will be greatly missed by all who knew her.
BIGHORN MOUNTAIN (1971)
On the topo map SUNWAPTA 83 C/6 at co-ordinates 912-894 is a 9,951 ft peak on the border of Banff and Jasper National Parks.
On July 24, 1971 a trip was lead up this peak by Jack Carter, who was working at the Columbia lcefields Chalet that summer. In the party were myself, my daughter Anthea and two sons Brent and Glen and also Larry Trotter a fellow employee of Jack's.
In the evening after the climb, and noticing that it was un-named, we collectively agreed on the name "Bighorn Mountain" due to the fact that we had encountered a flock of Bighorn Sheep on the ascent. .
I was delegated to proceed with the naming process which I commenced on December 2, 1971. The Canadian Permanent Committee on Geographic Names advised that there was no known name for the mountain and advised that I contact both the Alberta Geographic Board and the Parks Branch. The Parks Branch didn't offer any encouragement, however, after writing the Alberta Board on December 16, 1971 I finally received an answer on February 14, 1972 advising that they alone had the say as to what anything In Alberta was named and that the Canadian Permanent Committee merely endorses their approval.
After nine more letters to the Alberta Board I finally received a letter dated May 30 1974, which contained the statement that "The Geographic Board is in agreement with the name Bighorn Mountain". I acknowledged their letter on June 4 1974 and also on June 21 1974 took the correspondence to the Archives of the Canadian Rockies in Banff to be photostated for their records.
This gave our group no small amount of satisfaction, as we were mainly Ramblers, to have named a mountain. If you decide to try it, don't be in a hurry.