A difficult and dangerous climb in the Alaska Range turns grotesque beyond measure when mountaineer Fletcher becomes the object of a grizzly bear's undying wrath.
As Englishman Fletcher tells it, he's a bit of a hard case in the climbing world, the kind of fellow who likes to go it alone, unsupported and without previous reconnaissance, without weapons, though he had been warned of the rough-customer grizzlies of his chosen venue, Mt. Hess, a peak rarely visited. “I was balancing off the weight of a rifle and ammunition against the unlikely event of meeting a bear.” Think again. Not only does he meet a bear, he kills it in a moment of terror and confusion. It turns out to be a cub, and Fletcher is appalled by what he has done—but he will pay for it, with interest. Another bear soon materializes: “It has to be the one whose cub I killed. I can tell by the hatred written all over it. . . . I can clearly see that the bear has every intention of tearing me to pieces.” From there on out, the writing stays atwitter as Fletcher recounts his flight from the bear—he manages to scale Mt. Hess in the process—and the absurd, almost comical number of encounters they have. At one point, the bear has a claw hooked into his boot as Fletcher dangles from a rope attached to a frozen waterfall, when a large section of the ice collapses on the beast. But it rises, like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, time and again. Fletcher overdraws the final moments—the seconds really do draw into hours, but they are so fraught, readers will hang in there with him. Trapped in a crevasse, the bear's claws raking his jacket, Fletcher sets the bear alight, leading to a final showdown.
A real squirmer—outrageous white-knuckle horror—and you can only imagine: better him than you.