When hiking a volcano, there are obvious elements that can pose threats for its climbers: loose rocks, hot ash or even plumes of gas. However, not many hikers would expect to find a bear along their hike to the summit—and certainly not a rare “spirit” bear.
While hiking Mt. Ararat in Turkey, seven Ukrainian tourists encountered an equally magical and frightening sight. Two bears stood before them—one brown and one white. The brown bear ran off as soon as it saw the tourists, but the spirit bear roared and charged them.
The albino bear is actually an or “spirit” or “Kermode” bear, a rare subspecies of the black bear.
‘Spirit’ Bear Sighting Freezes Hikers in Place
According to the National Park Service, when a bear is vocal while it charges, that often means it’s a “bluff charge.”
Bears tend to bluff charge when surprised, not when aggressive. If a bear charges you, the most effective defense is none at all. Despite every bone in your body telling you to run, the best thing to do is stand your ground and stay calm.
“Bluff charges are meant to scare or intimidate,” the NPS official website reports. “When a bear bluff charges, it will have its head and ears up and forward. The bear will puff itself up to look bigger. It will bound on its front paws toward you (moving in big leaps), but then stop short or veer off to one side. Often bears retreat after a bluff charge, or they may vocalize loudly.”
Thankfully for the Ukrainian hikers, the steep, rocky terrain of the volcano kept them from running. With a giant white bear charging towards them, all they could do was scream. But the bear veered off at the last moment and disappeared. Although probably a bit wobbly on their feet on the way down, all hikers were unharmed.
Volcano Tour Guide Reflects on Bear Sighting
“It took seconds for the bear to rush towards us to attack us when we heard his voice,” tour guide Saffet Akkus told Mirror. “It was a bear as white as a polar bear. I had never seen a bear on Mount Ararat until today. It was a huge bear.”
According to the tour guide, who has been leading trips on Mt. Ararat for 16 years, this was his first time ever seeing a bear on the volcano.
However, even with such a shocking experience, the “spirit” bear sighting didn’t deter the group from finishing the hike. After a brief break at their previous basecamp site, the group continued their multi-day trip to the top.
“After getting over the shock, we decided to complete the climb,” Akkus said. “Everyone was so excited to see an albino bear. It is very interesting that we saw the bear there. The climbing route is so crowded that no animal can come there easily.”
Still, the hikers understand just how lucky they are to have escaped from the interaction alive.
“But we are certainly very lucky. We had an event that we will never forget,” the 31-year-old guide said.