Solo in Yellowstone/Beartooths, Dumb?
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John Brown
(johnbrown2005) - F

Locale: Portland, OR
Solo in Yellowstone/Beartooths, Dumb? on 08/12/2006 19:23:37 MDT Print View

My partner for a week or two in Yellowstone/Beartooth area just had to bail. I've gotten all kinds of conflicting opinions from books, rangers, friends, on how much risk is involved in solo backpacking in grizz country, and am curious about what you all think.

I'm looking at Bechler area of Yellowstone, or Beartooths, exact spot TBD. Any particular advice on places that are higher or lower risk?

Thanks! Will be in Wind Rivers for a week, so won't be able to provide additional detail till I get out. If someone had particular advice and wanted to e-mail it to hayswitt at hotmail, it'd be much appreciated as I could grab it from my phone on the road. Thanks again!

Miles Barger
(milesbarger) - F - M

Locale: West Virginia
From a Soloer in Yellowstone on 08/13/2006 13:27:17 MDT Print View

John,
I've been living, working, and, most importantly, hiking in Yellowstone all summer. Almost all of my trips have been done solo -- it's surprisingly hard to find people interested in anything more than a 5-mile day hike.

I have seen bears. I saw a grizzly from very far away around the Tower/Roosevelt area. Hiking to the summit of Mount Holmes, I saw a grizzly in hot pursuit of a group of three female elk. The group ran about 100 yards to my right, cut in front of me through the trees, and headed 30 yards down my left to a meadow where the bear finally caught the last elk in the line and took it down. This was truly frightening.

I say this not to scare you, but to emphasize two facts. 1. All of the rangers and long-time Yellowstone workers to whom I've told that story were absolutely amazed because it is VERY RARE. 2. Encounters with bears are a risk in Yellowstone.

Statistically speaking, hiking solo increases the risk of an encounter with a bear, and, obviously, should any kind of injury occur, you have no one to help you get out. However, if you are alert, carry bear spray, make sure to make noise, keep track of your position in the wind, are generally a smart and well-versed backpacker, make sure to carry low odor foods in airtight, odor proof bags that you always hang properly at night, and have a well thought out plan for encounters with and possible injuries from bears, your risks are very low. You have a much better chance of being killed in a car accident than you do of having any kind of negative encounter with a bear.

Ultimately, you have to decide if the benefits of solo backpacking in the area are worth the slightly increased risk. From my own 3 months of experience in the park, I can say that for me, yes, solo backpacking in Yellowstone has been fine. If you're curious about what areas tend to have more bear activity, look for the Bear Management Areas on your maps, consult park rangers, and have a general understanding of what types of habitats bears tend to prefer. I have not hiked much in the Bechler region, so I can't comment on it specifically. I have been in the Beartooths and have not personally encountered any sign of bears.

Shawn Basil
(Bearpaw) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Solo in Yellowstone/Beartooths, Dumb? on 08/13/2006 17:25:05 MDT Print View

I'd have to agree with the previous post about solo hiking, at least inside the Park. I've hiked more in the drier northern regions of Yellowstone, as well as having worked a NOLS Absaroka course which skirted the extreme eastern edge of the park. In both instances, I encountered grizzly, both times at a distance across a river, and they were never aware of me (that I know of). My understanding is that grizzly are not particularly active in the southwest portion of the park, but black bear still abound and you'll want to be just as vigilant. However, if are careful with food odors when cooking and eating, separate your sleeping area as much as possible from kitchen and bear hang (this can be difficult in some of the more heavily wooded campsites), and hum or sing to yourself pretty loudly (I find this much less mind-numbing than shouting "hey bear!" all day), and use generally good judgement when travelling through grown up terrain, you should be fine.

Oneother note: You'll be expected to bear hang on established horizontal poles unless there has been a significant change in park policy in the last couple of years. You can leave the bear cannister at home.

Miles Barger
(milesbarger) - F - M

Locale: West Virginia
Hanging Food on 08/13/2006 19:34:50 MDT Print View

Just a quick note: Yes, the park only requires hanging food at least 10 feet above the ground and four feet from the supports. No bear canisters/Ursacks required.

John Brown
(johnbrown2005) - F

Locale: Portland, OR
solo in grizzly country on 08/29/2006 01:03:21 MDT Print View

Miles, Shawn, thanks for the feedback. Spent week in greater Yellowstone area solo, and concluded that while there's undoubtably some risk, it's acceptable, for me, when following standard precautions. Nice country.