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Moose lick

April 23, 2009

A few evenings back I was at another of those impromptu climber’s parties that seem to just happen. As the beer and BS started flowing, I started listening with a certain amount of insouciance to folks talking about their latest heinous sends on bad-ass routes (even I was doing it) – we’re really all legends in our own minds after a few pints right?

Before long though, we started talking about some of the more humorous or unusual things that had happened to us on road trips, and we all regaled a few of those “sleepy mistaken identity” stories that crop up after folks have shared one too many bivies together away from their significant others. Then we got going on wildlife encounters – this was my contribution:

A couple of winters ago, Bryce and I headed to the Canadian Rockies at the end of November for what was supposed to be a few weeks of getting a jump on the winter alpine climbing season, and perhaps a bit of water ice climbing in between getting spanked off the big faces.

Arriving in Canmore exhausted from the single-push drive from Thunder Bay, we knew we’d need a couple days to get warmed up to the setting again, stretch our legs, and get our lungs used to the dry mountain air, so we opted to start off with some water ice action. Conditions reports had the routes down the Spray Lakes Road in good condition, so off we went. Knowing the approach was longish and we’d be slow after the drive, we got a fairly early start and were first in the parking lot, and that’s where the fun began.

As I was bent over lacing my boots, Bryce decided to be funny and push me over, grunting in primal sort of way. Cursing loudly, something along the lines of “Geez man! We’ve hardly been away from home a couple of days and you’re starting up with the dumb jokes?!”, I was stunned to see it wasn’t Bryce, but in fact a rather large moose that was getting really friendly with me.

p1020685I was tired and all reason went out the window, so instead of hiding in the car I started yelling at the moose (he was standing over my pack after all). Beeping the horn and chasing him off with a ski pole, all I managed to do was chase him to the other end of the parking lot. Fine with me, Bryce and I could pack up, and so we skied off. I figured folks must’ve been feeding the animal or something.

p1020686In the classic “dopes on ropes” fashion that was to dominate our trip that year, we got lost on the approach and realized our mistake fairly late. Eventually we got ourselves sorted out but upon seeing the routes we had a feeling that something wasn’t right (uncertain and unpredictable snowpack, biggish cornices over the routes, exhaustion…the lemons were adding up) so we headed back to the car.

Approaching the car, I was surprised to see how clean it appeared – definitely not how I had left it, with a good 24 hours’ worth of the Trans-Canada highway’s salt caked on it. It was then that we realized the moose had licked virtually the entire car clean! I guess salt is hard to come by that far off the highways in winter for the big critters. Now I understood what that brown ungulate had been so pushy about – he wasn’t in love with me like Bryce had insisted, just after the salt on the car.

p10206871We had another good laugh a few days later reading the conditions reports, where some skier had noted they’d arrived in the parking lot that morning to find “some poor dude’s car getting licked clean by a moose”.

p1020688For a variety of reasons (some humorous, some serious) and some just plain bad luck, we quickly realized the trip just wasn’t meant to be that time around, and ended up heading home early – but that’s another story.  What I remember most about that trip (aside from the scary snowpack, poor route conditions and an encounter with a few tonnes of falling ice) was definitely how clean my car was until the drive home, and having to deal with frozen moose drool on the tailgate – he must’ve been interrupted by the skiers’ arrival just as he was finishing up on the back of the car.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Dean permalink
    April 24, 2009 13:57

    Great writing homie! Brilliant!

    • Nick Buda permalink*
      April 24, 2009 19:23

      Thanks Dean! This sort of stuff always seems to happen to ME on the Rockies trips…

  2. Matt permalink
    April 28, 2009 23:49

    Wow Nick… I think coffee came out my nose. That was hilarious and well written to boot. Good luck out there this summer.

    • Nick Buda permalink*
      April 29, 2009 07:25

      Thanks Matt. I can assure you we thought it was pretty funny when it happened too. One of these days I will get to go on a “normal” climbing trip, and it will seem boring.

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