My harrowing night with a mountain lion

This is quite the library of videos recording my most terrifying trail experience to date:

Watch for the glowing eyes in the first few seconds towards the top left of the video:

Once inside my tent:

Losing my mind:

SPOT:

1am:

This morning:

Thank you to Harlon and Rusty, my two ground rescuers who started at the trail head at 5am to come and find me:

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56 thoughts on “My harrowing night with a mountain lion

  1. This was an emotional series of videos for me to watch. In 2003, a lion stalked me on a solo backpacking hike in Wyoming and after I thought it had left, it began shaking my tent violently in the middle of the night. I’ve never been so terrified. This brought it all back. I’ve been right where you were only with less technology.

    I’ve also pressed the red button on a SPOT after an airplane crash. The helicopter was on sight in an hour and a half or so. Your video of the red button flashing is all too familiar, but I’m happy that you had a good outcome. You did the right thing. Keep in mind that civilian SAR helicopters normally can’t fly in the mountains at night.

    All the best,
    Ryan

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  5. Thank you for sharing your video. That is always such a huge fear of mine. I often am out alone though I had a dog for some time (which I worried over more than myself). Maybe not way far out but still where I have seen tracks. My worst fear would be to spend a night like you did in the tent! So glad for you that it ended well though. I wonder if pepper spray for dogs would help in a close encounter? I do not really know but still I pack some with me. I have packed some firecrackers in the past too but not sure if my old shaking hands could light them!

  6. Wow, so glad you are ok. What a crazy and frighting experience. I actually cried when watch the morning video. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Hi!!! Cat here…. You don’t know me… But I kinda know you through BOBCAT. I met him on my JMT while he was hiking the PCT southbound. (He told me about you!) I’m Helen from Belgium and I was given the trail name Cat Woman just a month ago, cuz I had the same experience like you. I’ve been trapped in my tent by a mountain lion for 13hours. It was the most terrible night of my whole life and I went through the same feelings you went through. I think not too many people fully understand how threatening it feels to be captured in a tiny tent by a mountain lion. It felt like my coffin. I didn’t have a SPOT, so I couldn’t push the button but if I’d had one I’m sure that in my anxiety I would have pushed that button too. Eventually I was rescued by 2 other hikers. It was only then that the mountain lion took off. That happened on day 2 of my hike and I have been doubting whether I should continue my hike or not. I did and I am sooo happy about it. After that night I had the best time of my life and I reached Mount Whitney savely, though I did have trouble finding sleep at night. Anyway, I just wanted to say: You’re damn brave and I hope you reach the canadian border safe and sound! If you wanna read about my night with a mountain lion, you can check my blog: http://walkingwomad.blogspot.de/2013/09/day-2-and-3-half-dome-and-mountain-lion.html Love! CAT

  8. Hi, I have had quite few close encounters with mountain lions in the Santa Monica mountains. I always stand my ground and they always leave. They never run away, but slowly walk of. This might sound crazy, but since I am a terrible singer, I will be carrying a small gadget with good speakers. Maybe a good blast of Beethovens Fifth, will get a lion a good kick in the butt. I have also met a couple of forestry rangers with big eyes painted on the backs of their jackets and backpacks, when I asked them why, they told me that mountain lions always attack their pray from the back, because it can’t see the attacker. This was according to a study. Well, I might be the weird hiker blasting classical music and wearing gear with large eyes painted on the back. I find these animals magnificent. The mountains are their diminishing home, I am only the visitor, therefore, and, of course I don’t want to get harmed, I don’ t want to see any of these cats harmed either.

  9. You are my hero. Those videos shook me up, and I couldn’t imagine having been you, alone, out there. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  10. WOW! What an ordeal! You were amazing brave, did all the right things we’re taught to do. Thanks for filming the SPOT experience, because it’s good to know the reality of how those things work. Glad everything worked out and you’re alright ~ you’re an amazing lady!

  11. Muk Muk,

    What a harrowing night. I’ve had some close encounters with cats and they can scare the crap out of you, from their bloodcurdling “scream” to fresh kills still smoking hot. It’s quite rare for people to be attacked, but it does happen and there have been a few people killed in the past few years, so nothing but kudos for your bravery. You might think of picking up a can of bear spray and strapping it to your pack if you’re still a bit spooked. We carried them from the Wind River Range all the way to Canada last year on the CDT and I’ll be carrying one again this year when I re-hike the northern sections of that trail. When deployed, they don’t permanently injure an animal, but they almost immediately incapacitate it. The capsicum temporarily blinds and chokes the critter if it breathes it in, but it is much more effective than fire arms with bears who are so big that people can empty a magazine into them and they can still mall the person before they die themselves. Whereas bear spray is immediate and non lethal to both the animal and the human. They don’t weigh much either. It sort of turns us into skunks in relation to these large predators. A few encounters with capsicum and the animal may not be interested in stalking humans at all. After last year, I think it’s an ethically good thing to carry and I may start carrying in the Sierra in the future.

    And what a blessing to come upon Piper’s Mom the next day. She’s simply the best, and would be just the person to give you the kind of support you could use after such a night.

    Bravo on making it through.

    Shroomer

  12. you are such a brave and courageous sole…thank you for sharing this with us….intense, wild and crazy night….you made it lady…..breathe…gratitude…that is the scariest movie i have ever seen…..

  13. Muk Muk, it was a delight (and a relief) to meet you this morning. You’re an amazing young woman. I hope the rest of your trip is beautiful and serene. No more big cats allowed! Hugs, Piper’s Mom.

    • It was so wonderful to meet you too! Thank you so much for your trail magic and your comforting hugs this morning. What a start to the day! Matt got a booking for dinner tonight too! Big hugs, Muk :)

  14. I’m glad that you survived! If you do an image search for “Sunderbans tiger mask” you’ll get an idea of how the honey-gatherers of the Sunderban preclude some tiger attacks (their greatest occupational hazard) Presumably this would work equally well on mountain lions during daylight hours. Perhaps a high-intensity blue or green laser would work best at night, aside from the considerable weight. I remember reading about a PCT hiker in the 90’s who awoke from a cowboy-camp good-night’s sleep to find lion tracks all around her sleeping bag….

  15. Given you are out there in the wilderness living along side Mt. lions, bears, wild boar, rattle snakes, and other creatures, you were bound to cross one anothers paths. One can not tell what the lions intentions were, curious, hungry, or perhaps just wanting to keep your company, obviously there to scare the crap out of you too. We can only imagine what we would do in that situation (given most of us are watching your videos from the comfort of our living rooms). I think you handled it like a lion tammer. No doubt he/she would of had a honey badger on their paws had they decided to mess with you any further! Well done Aussie!

  16. Muk Muk!!
    Oh my goodness what a terrifying night! But thank G-d you are alive and thriving…I hope you know what an incredible inspiration you are– especially to us ladies– of the badassery inside all of us. Your courage and bravery bring such light to my days… keep up the phenomenal adventure lady, you are such a rockstar!! :D

    • And another thing, this video series was TERRIBLE! I called my boyfriend immediately, and let him know, you’re becoming quite the celebrity! A tad bit like the Truman Show, just waiting for Muk updates everyday. Lots of love and support your way today…

  17. Enormous sympathy for you, Muk Muk, for this terrifying experience – I’m sure this will be a lifelong record for the longest night ever. Statistically, at least, your mountain lion experiences should now be completely over. Even so, once you are well-rested and have regained a good measure of equanimity, it may be helpful to “debrief” and learn from this experience, for the benefit of your own safety and that of future hikers.

    Dave T’s posts have excellent advice. Tom Chester’s report on the (very rare, and even more rarely fatal) mountain lion attacks in California from 1980-2007 contain some good lessons on what helped people survive, and might be worth reading by anyone on the trail. A big rock aimed for the snout seems to be more effective than a knife, for example. http://www.tchester.org/sgm/lists/lion_attacks_ca.html

    To the extent you can arrange to be with others during the dusk to dawn period, the better, for improved safety vis-a-vis mountain lions and also for improved peace of mind.

    Knowing the limitations of rescue is helpful, as well. That you got a helicopter as soon as it was daylight, and two men started hiking toward you at 5pm, is realistically as rapid a response as one could expect under the circumstances, and knowing that, along with techniques (deep breathing, etc.) to help you keep your wits about you as you work through a crisis, is important.

    An extremely tough night, and you did great, all things considered. Sending best wishes your way for your peace of mind and some uneventful miles on the trail!

  18. Wow, tears in eyes, what a thing to go through. Who would ever think of this situation happening. So glad and happy your safe. Thanks so much for sharing, U Rock!

  19. Hi Muk Muk. I am sitting with your parents here in Singapore watching the videos of your encounter with the lion. As your father said, this is not what we wanted you to experience. When we saw your last video, we all 3 had to go for the tissue box. Take care of yourself now and happy walking. Keep on walking as they say in the Johnny walker commercial. The difference is that your father is enjoying Laphroaig instead at the moment before our dinner

  20. Dear girl,

    You’ve got me terrified. Time must have passed so slowly waiting for help and the libarating morning. So glad you’re okay. It’s a good thing that SPOT thing worked, allthough in took a lot of time to get to you. Hopfully sharing your story helps a little and keeps you going. Thinking of you.

    Love Minouk

  21. Hi darling, you brought me to tears, I was crying there with you. Such a harrowing experience, such anxious moments. Not knowing what would happen next. You were very brave and amazing that you kept the video going. Dave T has some great advice, but I think that you were totally dumb struck. You are safe and that is the most important. You are strong and still keep feeling free in the nature. I wish you strength for the coming miles. Love you darling, Mutti xxoo

  22. Jon said you had this horrendous and what seems like a rare experience – poor you. You are a very brave young lady,

  23. Jana just saw your posts tonight, we are all worried about you and want to know that your ok now. It must have been so terrible, our hearts go out to you and we would give you lots of hugs if we were there!!! You did the right thing to use your spot, I heard a story recently of a man hiking on a trail I have been on by myself in the evening on the west side of the summit, and a Mt Lion was blocking his path, he called 911 , the helicopter was sent there, as they knew it would take too long to hike out to help him, and the helicopter came and scared away the Mt lion that was blocking the trail. You should get a satelite phone, they can work where cell phones don’t,both Jana and Pam have them, but a sat phone might not have worked in the deep forest, but you should check it out, as it might make the rest of your journey feel safer.
    From Ann and the other ladies you met on the trail Tues night, and saw you last night in Belden, eating your burger.
    Hugs from all of us, and let us know if there is anything we can do for you!!!

  24. What a terrifying experience. Reality video I wish we’d never have to watch. Also freaked out. So brave to hold it together for so long. We’re exhausted from it as well! Just assume that nothing like this will happen again on the trail – you have had your biggest test and won through. Very sound advice offered in other replies. Surprised that defense is not a usual topic between hikers. Remember I said to seriously consider capsicum or a small weapon. Loud noise and no-fear/aggression appearance should work with most critters – except starving ones. Humans are not usual natural prey. Hope you reflect on this for lessons but hope more that it puts wings on your feet to hit the finish finish line ASAP. With you Muk Muk.

  25. Wow, that was some amazingly compelling video…better than any adventure film I’ve seen in a long while! Thank you for sharing it and your heartfelt emotions. After that encounter, nothing can stop you all the way to Canada, for sure.

  26. Hey dirty doll. You are so strong and brave! You have endured over a thousand miles of brutal conditioning. You are almost halfway and I know nothing will stop you from reaching Canada. Pity the poor fool–human or mountain lion–that unleashes the rage of a tenacious and powerful goddess determined to reach Canada. That Mountain Lion was smart to leave; he would have been very sorry to try to mess with you.
    (I know I send you some silly stuff but I did include a “mega blast” in your Drakesbad box of tricks. It is a seriously very loud horn! Keep it next to your flyswatter…)
    xoXy

  27. Ok, so that was one of the most terrifying series of videos I’ve ever seen. So thankful you are safe. Call your parents. Take a break when you can. Drink a beer.

  28. Please don’t use firecrackers in fire country! But an air horn would be useful. The mountain lion warning signs in my local park say to make noise and look as big as possible by waving your hands (or hiking poles).

  29. That was so freaky! I’m so sorry you went through that :(

    I like a lot of the safety recommendations you got. I’m going to using some of them. Thanks !

    • We had a similar encounter with bears in Sequoia National Park & were terrified. They were everywhere we turned & hungry. They snuffled around our tent all night & ate every speck of food we had necessitating a quick retreat back in the morning. Had I been alone, I would have seriously lost my mind.
      You are very brave and have definitely earned one or more zero days after that!

  30. Now that you’ve gotten through it and have some excellent advice (thanks Dave T), you can move forward with confidence and some kick ass attitude! You are a strong woman, get some rest … and then head out again armed with knowledge. Hang in there!

  31. Wow. Things that go bump in the dark; then an actual visual confirmation. Yikes! Some practical reminders & suggestions: at camp: fashion several throw sticks and a spear (assume some branches exist). Stage throwing rocks nearby. Bang on cookpot for good noise. Use ur whistle/whistling. Look for tracks around your site. Hiking poles are a last resort. Setup tent with a rock face or big tree(stump) at ur back. Keep a fire going (weigh the risks). Remove all tracks around tent to reveal new activity. Avoid submissive positions (crouching) when outside tent. I assume ur food/toiletries are hung away and high. Focus on ur breathing to keep a quieter mind (spinning=anxiety). You’re paying some dues. Hang tough. Thx for the posts.

    • Addendum: the hours delay in a response to your Spot (406mhz) is normal. Assume at least 3 hrs +. All the logistics in your area have to be mobiles which takes time. Dave

      • And 1 more ….. very hard to see a “thumbs up” . Instead, use the scuba diver’s OK …. make circle w/ either or both arms by touching the top of your head with finger tips. Any waving and/or 3 lights, etc. in a row means “in trouble, need help”. Use brightest colors as attention getter. Get to any clearing so helo can spot you. Better to stay put in the general/close area of your last help signal so rescuers can find you.

    • I would seriously consider building a fire, even if its illegal. I think that’s what they do to keep lions away!!!

  32. Good job Rosie getting through the dark night!
    You can to anything!
    Keep up your good spirit and move on dear!

    V

  33. Hi Rozanne,

    OMG. I’m still shaking. What an ordeal. I’m so glad your strength brought you through. The memories will probably last forever. I remember thinking that the mosquitoes were the worst. Guess that was wrong. You are awesome. After this harrowing experience, I hope you have many happy and easy trail days.

    Donna

  34. Holy Crap, Rozanne, this shit is INSANE!
    Where can I buy the movie rights to this?
    Amazing!
    But, a heads up for next time: Try singing a few songs from The Lion King. It’ll let the lions know you are cool & they probably won’t eat you. Probably.
    Glad you’re okay though!

  35. yikes, how fucking scary! I looked this up, incase you come across another one!
    If you see a mountain lion:

    Stay calm. Hold your ground or back away slowly. Face the lion and stand upright.
    Do not approach a lion. Never approach a mountain lion especially one that is feeding or with kittens. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
    Do not run from a lion. Running may stimulate a mountain lion’s instinct to chase. Instead, stand and face the animal. Make eye contact. If you have small children with you, pick them up if possible so they don’t panic and run. Although it may be awkward, pick them up without bending over or turning away from the mountain lion.
    Do not crouch down or bend over. Biologists surmise mountain lions don’t recognize standing humans as prey. On the other hand, a person squatting or bending over looks a lot like a four-legged prey animal. If you’re in mountain lion habitat, avoid squatting, crouching or bending over, even when picking up children.

    If the mountain lion moves in your direction or acts aggressively:

    Do all you can to appear intimidating.
    Attempt to appear larger by raising your arms and opening your jacket if you are wearing one. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly in a loud voice.
    If looking bigger doesn’t scare the mountain lion off, start throwing stones, branches, or whatever you can reach in its direction without crouching or turning your back. Don’t throw things at it just yet. There is no need to unnecessarily injure the mountain lion. With that said, your safety is of the utmost importance and the National Park Service won’t necessarily prosecute you for harassment of wildlife if something you throw at an aggressive mountain lion does make contact. During the initial stages of a mountain lion encounter, the idea is to convince the mountain lion that you are not prey and that you may be a danger to it.

    If the mountain lion continues to move in your direction:

    Start throwing things AT it. Again, your safety is more important than the mountain lion’s.

    If the mountain lion attacks you: God forbid!

    Fight back! A hiker in Southern California used a rock to fend off a mountain lion that was attacking his son. Others have fought back successfully with sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools, and their bare hands. Since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal.

    IMMEDIATELY REPORT ALL SIGHTINGS, ENCOUNTERS OR ATTACKS
    Wishing you a safe journey. God bless

  36. Rozanne you made it and you’re ok, thank God for that. I and a buddy had an encounter long ago when we returned late in the dusk from duck hunting on our Oregon farms. Out of nowhere came this blood curdling scream…….we both froze………after a few seconds we could hear the cat moving through the field about 30ft away……..of course the difference was we both had 12 gauge shotguns at the ready……………it’s too bad you can’t pack a self defense weapon on the trail……..a couple of shots in the ground would have had the cat on the run………..even a small caliber would work……..ah well………..not gonna happen

  37. Do they sell firecrackers in California? Your anxiety traveled all the way to New Jersey, intact. Daylight never looked so good! We’re all relieved.

    Dave

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