An Open Letter to Derek.

Below is a message posted to my blog from Derek. This message is very similar to a few others I have received so I thought it was time to answer.


“Two words: bear spray.

Great story, but there was a bunch of actions that could have been taken that would have made the situation better and help you both handle it better. I live here and NEVER recreate without bear spray, so that’s one. Second is to never run; running triggers a pursuit response, so guarantees a chase (and bears run faster than you anyway, so it’s a waste of time). Third is to recognize the difference between an aggressive attack and a defensive attack and act accordingly. In the former, the bear wants you as lunch (very, very rare), in the latter the bear just wants you gone and out of his neighbourhood. This was obviously the latter, because he passed on his message then left. Leave the neighbourhood and there’s no fear of “how far away can bears smell blood?” — they’re not sharks. Movies don’t depict bear behaviour realistically. Bears don’t stalk you for days.

A bit of education and some bear spray and your day would have been better. Congratulations for trying to achieve a challenging objective.”


Hi Derek,

Thanks for your comments and concern. This being my ninth time to The Canadian Rockies, an area I love for amazing climbing, wildlife and the friendship of Canadian people, I am very much aware of ‘standard’ bear safety theory.  I think it’s safe to say we met this Grizzly under extraordinary circumstances, at a time of year when one would rarely carry bear spray for example. I think this factor is endorsed by many locals who have expressed surprise this attack happened at this time of year. Also, given the extremely difficult nature of the route we were attempting, hence the odd time of night we encountered the bear, this would be considered unusual as well.

Although much of the mainstream media described us as running – because neither Greg nor I have spoken to any of them to confirm or deny – the bear was in fact upon us almost immediately, a few steps were taken at most. We didn’t see it coming because of the dark, so we were very much controlled and not panicking and walking. When we turned the bear was running at full speed, only metres from us and the attack happened in seconds. We did not cause the attack other than by being in the place we were. I could have been carrying a Glock 9mm but it would have been of no use unless it was in my hand and ready. Bear spray would not have helped unless carried in position and ready for action. Can you honestly say this is how you walk around the hills, armed and ready at every step?   Also, you should know I have the utmost respect for bears and their territory and I am very pleased to hear the bear won’t be terminated because of our, or its actions, the area is to be made ‘out of bounds’ for the winter. Hopefully this will end the speculation and uninformed comments doing the rounds on other sites.  

It appears the few people that have criticised our actions are very skilled in the correct procedure if faced with a bear attack, but it also appears they have not actually been in the unenviable position themselves. If this is your case, maybe you should wait and see what you do given similar circumstances, and then maybe you would think twice about writing a somewhat condescending message. I could have started this message giving you two words but I chose not to.

You say bears don’t stalk or track people. In general I’m sure you are correct, but bears, like people, like any animal, are individual, who is to say they all act the same and rules and normal actions are always followed… The ferrets I kept as a teenager had the reputation for fierceness and biting, but they were as soft as hamsters, although I hear hamsters can give a good out of character nip if provoked!

Finally, I have not eaten an animal other than fish for 22 years, how about you? You and other peoples concern for one animal is admirable, but I wonder how many of the people criticising Greg and my actions eat animals and in doing so are a part of the massive cruelty happening on a daily basis to animals around the world?

All the best and hoping you never experience what we did.

Nick Bullock.



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24 Responses to An Open Letter to Derek.

  1. Kim Wilson says:


  2. Ken Cox says:

    Nice response Nick.

    I suppose a lot of the comments you received were a lot like people commenting on climbing. The experts are always on the ground, or I suppose nowadays on their computers.

  3. JLS says:

    Greg was behind. “Bear, aaaaaaargh.” I spun to watch Greg sprint past me and in hot pursuit was a Grizzly. The bear bounded, pulling and pushing the snow with powerful legs. The snow lapped its belly and didn’t appear to slow it. Greg ran out of sight and the carnivorous freight train passed me…

    Just sayin’ like. 🙂

    • Nick Bullock says:

      And your point is… just sayin like 🙂

      • kevin griffin says:

        Hmm. Perhaps he (the bear) was pissed you described him as an exclusive meat-eater, like a wolf, rather than an omnivore. Imagine how grumpy you’d would be trying to sustain your 800 lb frame from berries and other shrubbery?

  4. JLS says:

    The point is the casual reader of your blog could be forgiven for leaving with the impression there was some running from the bear involved. No malice intended in my post, sorry if it appears otherwise. Best wishes.

    • Nick Bullock says:

      And my point was there was no running to induce the attack, the attack was not brought about by running as people have suggested. Your post implied I was not writing the truth, if you can’t see this, maybe you should have asked someone to read your post before hitting the send. And why is it everyone thinks they can get away with an insult in todays society by adding a smiley face after the insult? Best wishes, Nick.

  5. Edward Dalton says:

    Nick, words well said and patience in the abundance. Great constraint shown in your reply. Good luck and wish you both well.

    Oh, ps the guy is obviously a cock.

  6. KPD says:

    Hello Nick,

    As a casual reader I also was given the impression that running had taking place. As an avid climber and hiker in Alaska, on 2 occasions a bear has charged me and I have witnessed 1 other similar charge. In each case I or the other party stood our ground and thankfully the result was a bluff charge. Running 2 steps or 100 steps is likely to result in being chased and appreciate Derek’s response.

    • Nick Bullock says:

      Hi Kevin,

      My point was as much about the tone of the delivery of the message. And to reiterate, it was pitch black, the bear was in full flow and metres away… now if that’s a bluff, so be it, I’m quite open to say fair doo’s, but being Brits where our largest wild animal is a Badger, it looked like a full house in the light of a headtorch.

  7. Joe P says:

    I agree. All of the above circumstances led to the outcome that was reactive by surprise only!!! Given the location, time and proximity of the encounter; Greg and Nicks actions were completely normal!!! Arm chair critics be damned

  8. Matt Brooks says:

    Anytime Nick comes to the Rockies, he teaches the locals a thing or two about being bad ass. He is an inspiration to everyone in the scene. There was an incident a few years ago where a bear chased mountain guide Barry Blanchard and his client up a tree, the bear was unprovoked. Until you come and climb these routes and experience this wilderness, you’re talking out your ass. Nice work Nick and Greg, another trip and more motivating ascents, plus one great story. Rock on.

  9. Andrew Kirkpatrick says:

    I was once attacked by a dog and got away by sticking my finger up its arse, but guess you’d need dead long arms for a bear?

    Anyway you should have allowed it to eat you like a man!

    Just think, you’ll be the new fucking Joe Simpson and Simon Yates – Touching the Fur!

    Glad you made it though.

    • Sarah Stirling says:

      Ha ha love it, Andy. I agree, very restrained Nick. It’s easy to say what you ‘should do’ if you’ve never been in a situation…

  10. stephen says:

    hi nick,you two guys are still in the land of the living,thats the main could have been such a different outcome.arm chair critics can poke a keyboard all they want,but how would they react with one of the worlds biggest beasties running at them?well done for getting out of a bad situation,and good luck on all future climbes or hikes.

  11. JLS says:

    OK, my sincere apologies for offending you.

  12. Tom Rollo says:

    The sentence in your writing that struck with me was “I saw something I’d never seen before”. That switch from peace to utter terror in an instant and the realisation that your friend might die, “Nick, Nick, it’s got me..” is unimaginable to most of us. Maybe soldiers in combat experience it. But most folk don’t and never will. It’s why soldiers don’t speak to civvies about combat. Nick, I’ve written to you before and follow your stories, and I follow Greg’s. You’re inspirational to fat wish-beens like me. I’m so happy that you and the bear got out of this alive, your combat was with a beast of nature, like fish trying to escape a seal. What a moment in your and Greg’s lives. Enjoy the peace.

  13. Paul says:

    A Griz, out in late November? That’s so unusual as to be almost what one would call unheard of, although clearly it happens. As do people getting struck by lightening etc.
    Carrying bear spray in November? Yeah, right. Depending on the temp, it might not even work.
    I’ve lived, climbed and adventured in Northern Canada and Alaska for 30 years and while I have had some close encounters, I’ve never had an experience like yours Nick, and hope I never do. If anyone’s says they’d act differently, I say BS. One never knows how a bear encounter is going to go down until it does. You guys did what you had to at the time and it worked out. Glad it all worked out to be nothing more than an amazing story with few scars.

  14. …couldn’t leave without two words in parting. 🙂 Fair ’nuff.

  15. Neil says:

    Resisting bear attacks, like everything else in life, obviously needs practise to perfect. You should spend the rest of your Canadian holiday seeking out hibernating bears, kicking their arse til they wake up and then working on your stare down. And no bear spray, bear spray’s for sport climbers.

    Glad to see the Bullock ‘feel-good’ period has ended. That was just wierd!

    • Nick Bullock says:

      Very good Neil, really made me laugh that… I was wondering where you were in all of this shit show, knew it was too good an opportunity for you to miss.

  16. Allyson says:

    I’m glad to hear that you made it out alive!

    Don’t give the naysayers too much time or energy. They’ll always want the last word. It’s not worth it.

    Count your blessings and carry on!

  17. Blunty says:

    Hi Mighty Nick……..Blunty (your hero!) would have stood his ground, like the commando he is, and knocked the bear out with a killer left hook – followed by a text book upper cut with his right.

    Hope all is well and a hoofing story x

  18. Blake says:

    They have just made a film about this Nick, it’s called The Revenant.

    In this film (according to film fans), the bear wants to have sex with Leo DiCaprio – obviously; he’s a very handsome man.

    The moral of the story, don’t sexually provoke bears… lay off the cologne when in the wilderness and maybe wear a slightly older model of technical climbing jacket… I’d say at least a season or 2 out of fashion.

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