On Thursday August 12, after climbing the NW ridge of Sir Donald, we head back toward Lake Louise. We decide against going South toward Gimli as this would take us too far from the action. We're thinking about attempting the East Ridge of Temple, or maybe the Grand Sentinel, or both. All depends on the weather. The forecast calls for sunny weather the next several days, except maybe Saturday, when there may be a 30% chance of thundershowers in the afternoon. We'll check the forecast again tomorrow.
We leave Glacier NP and drive to Golden, where we stop for several hours for various chores. By the time we're done, it's already 8 PM, but we drive on to Lake Louise anyway. The campground is full but we weren't planning on staying there anyway (it's very expensive). Fortunately, because it's full, we can use the overflow camp for $8/night. Not exactly a beautiful camp (large dirt lot a few kms further toward Banff), but it will do for tonight. We also get to use the dump and refill our fresh water tank for free at the main campground.
The next day is spent preparing the gear and resting. We're still recuperating from our last climb. We go to town for e-mail and weather forecast (good weather expected to last until Sunday; system moving in after that). We then drive up to Moraine Lake to go scope out the route.
The bottom part of the route is hard to pinpoint as the ridge is very complex. We're pretty sure about the starting point though, so we figure things will get more obvious once we get closer. We do get a good look at the traverse under the Black Towers and make sketches to help us locate the correct exit gully onto the ridge. The conditions look good from here, though the Black Towers traverse looks awfully steep and exposedů we'll find out. Things usually look a lot more intimidating from far away. The weather is getting really hot. We turn to bed early. The alarm is set for 2:45 AM.
By the time we resign ourselves to get up, force down some food and drive to the pullout on the Moraine Lake road, it is 4:40 AM. What's worse, we can also see two headlamps moving up the gully. Well, it seems like we will have company... At least, we would be almost legal (this area has a seasonal bear closure and minimum group size is 6... a team of 6 would be an extremely inefficient setup on a route like this one). But as one of the rangers officially put it: "they won't be there before sunrise to prevent climbers from getting on the ridge. Just make sure you're legal on the descent route..."
Note that the pullout where we park is located on the south side of the road about 2 km from Moraine Lake, 5.7 miles from the Moraine Lake turnout, or 6.7 miles from Lake Louise Village. It's not super-obvious so we'd recommend going up the day before to check it out.
We lock the car and start climbing up the avalanche slope and into a chute behind the obvious pinnacle. It's mostly easy scrambling and a touch of class 4 at the top of the chute. An easy gully to the left of the pinnacle leads to a second step in the ridge. We then traverse rightward to a third, steeper section. We short-rope there and catch up with the other pair. A couple of 5th class moves and more easy scrambling deposit us at the base of the step. It's 7:30 AM. We have time to eat some breakfast and change into climbing shoes before the other pair joins us.
Eric starts 10 m left of the arete. We climb the "Big Step" in three pitches. I don't think we picked the easiest line there (the arete is reportedly easier). I'd say the three pitches of belayed climbing were roughly 5.9 (25 m), 5.8 (35 m) and 5.7 (45 m)...but of course, we're just back from the Bugaboos, so the rock feels so different! After three pitches of roped climbing, we short-rope again and simul-climb as the exposure and the difficulty lessen. Near the top of the step, we veer left into a chimney. We reach the top of the step shortly after 10 AM. The rock quality is OK through this section (but much looser higher on the ridge).
We change back into our boots and continue up the easy ridge. Half-an-hour later, we're at the point where we have to negotiate the traverse leading to the Black Towers exit gully.
The traverse is loose and exposed, with a couple of snow patches, but not as bad as we had feared. The snow is soft and we do not have to use our crampons. As we make our way on the loose ledges and pass below the first notch in the ridge above, we start counting the chutes and take the third one. We continue scrambling up unroped for a while, until we feel the terrain become more difficult. We then short-rope and simul-climb the rest of the gully. Note that it is very easy to get lost on this part and pick the wrong exit gully. Picking the first chute will force you to traverse the Black Towers, which - even if it was the original route - looks like a long and tedious affair.
The exit gully deposits us on the beautiful snow ridge that leads to the summit. It is now 12:40 PM. We slowed down a bit on the traverse and the exit gully, but the weather still looks stable so we should have plenty of time.
The snow on the ridge is really firm, even icy in places. There are tracks from previous parties, which makes the final trek to the summit pretty easy. The views of Mt Fay and Moraine Lake are great. We're alone. In the distance though, we can see people on the summit and others making their way up the SW Ridge (a popular "toruist" hike and our descent route).
We reach the summit at 2:20 PM. It's quite a shock. There are so many people! We have lunch and snap a couple of pictures. We also watch the other pair as they climb up the snow ridge.
We spend quite a while on the summit and start the descent at 4 PM. The SW ridge descent is straightforward (just a few moves of class 3) but very loose in spots. Many people - most of them not used to such terrain - are knocking rocks down all over the place. We descend quickly and hope for the best. The scree slopes to the lake seem endless. We refill our water bottles at the lake. What a difference can an easy descent route (with water) make! We pair up with some hikers and the other two climbers we met on the East Ridge for the section below Sentinel Pass (you're supposed to travel in groups of six or more there) and get back to the trailhead by 6 PM. The other pair even gives us a ride back to the jeep!
This was a great day. The East Ridge is a good alpine climb on varied terrain. The rock is OK on the "Big Step" and loose above. The route-finding is fun and interesting. The finish on the knife-edge snow ridge is spectacular. To top it off, an easy walk-down route awaits you at the summit.
Note: I would definitely not recommend doing this route as a multi-day trip. Carrying an overnight pack would really be a drag on the more technical section of the route. The route is very feasible in a day car-to-car. Even if you top out late, you could probably find your way down the SW ridge in the dark, without much difficulty.
Gear notes: No need for hexes. Few nuts. One set of cams (green alien to Blue Camalot). 8 slings + biners; maybe a screw or two in case the ridge is icy.
Mt Temple, East Ridge
|Camping in Banff National Park (overflow campground near Lake Louise).|
|The East Ridge follows the striking left skyline.|
|Enjoying the sunrise from just below the first roped-climbing section.|
|Catching up with another team just below the first roped section.|
|Looking back down the gully system we just came up.|
|Beautiful early morning views.|
|Looking up toward the Black Towers that guard the summit of Mt Temple.|
|Looking back down at the other pair on the steeper section just below the Big Step.|
|Lucie at the top of the steep section.|
|Easy climbing and...|
|...more easy climbing ...|
|...lead to the base of "The Big Step", a steep 90m buttress.|
|Eric at the base of "The Big Step".|
|Eric trying to find the path of least resistance on the first pitch of "The Big Step." (and probably too far to the left)|
|Great views of Moraine Lake and Mt Fay.|
|Eric starting the second pitch.|
|Higher on the second pitch.|
|Taking a break on the comfy belay ledge.|
|More easy and enjoyable climbing...|
|...eventually leads to a chimney and the top of "The Big Step".|
|Short-roping the easier and less exposed sections.|
|The chimney that leads to the top can be seen on the right.|
|Just below the chimney.|
|Eric starting up the steep chimney leading to the top of "The Big Step".|
|At the top of the chimney.|
|At the top of "The Big Step", we change back to our mountain boots...|
|...and scramble an easy ridge toward the Black Towers.|
|The Black Towers guard the summit snow ridge.|
|Traversing snow slopes below the Black Towers.|
|Scrambling up the exit gully.|
|Looking back down toward the traverse and the top of "The Big Step".|
|More great views of Mount Fay and Moraine Lake.|
|More easy climbing (we short-rope and simul-climb) leads to...|
|...the the top of the exit gully (at least the one we took).|
|The imposing Black Towers.|
|The final snow ridge.|
|Close-up view of the final snow ridge.|
|Lucie on the final snow ridge.|
|Making our way around a couple of crevasses.|
|Higher on the narrow ridge.|
|We can now see the summit.|
|Great views from the ridge.|
|Looking back toward the SW ridge|
|Eric on the upper section of the snow ridge...|
|On the crowded summit. Most people use the walk-up route (SW ridge) to gain the summit.|
|Watching the other pair as they make their way up the final snow slopes...|
|...and reach the summit.|
|Views from the top.|
|The descent follows the walk-up route (SW ridge) which is very popular.|
|Mt Fay and Moraine Lake...again!|
|Looking down toward Sentinel Pass.|
|The North Face of Mt Fay (we never got a chance to climb it because of poor conditions).|
|Descending the endless scree slopes...|
|...and reaching Sentinel Pass.|
|Following the highway (Larch Valley trail)...|
|... back down to Moraine lake.|
|You're supposed to travel in groups of 6 or more below Sentinel Pass (just tag along a group of hikers).|