Summit Elevation (m): 3545
Elevation Gain (m): 1600
Trip Time (hr): 9
Total Trip Distance (km): 14
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3 – you fall, you break something
Difficulty Notes: A fall on the crux would severely injure so take necessary precautions. Due to its size, weather and conditions are the most likely hazards.
Technical Rating: SC6; YDS (3rd)
Map: Google Maps
On our way to scramble Nigel Peak and Mount Wilcox the day before, Rod and I had noticed that Mount Temple’s northwest ridge (the scramble route) looked amazingly free of snow or ice. We were planning another day trip with Wietse for Saturday, September 15 2007 and since this was going to be my 150th peak and I’ve been waiting for the *perfect* day to do Temple, it seemed like the right objective. It was. We got to the Moraine Lake parking lot at around 08:30 and proceeded to gear up. We didn’t want to take any chances so we took crampons, axes and helmets for this one. I didn’t want to get over 10,500 feet only to realize that the final slope was pure ice or something silly like that.
Since we only had 3 people we hooked up with 3 scramblers from Europe for the approach trail to Sentinel Pass. Wietse led off on a good pace and soon 2 of the 3 Europeans were dropping behind rapidly. The other guy (Carl from the UK) dropped back to be with them, but soon Rod and I pointed out that we had done 1800 meters of height gain the day before so we were slowing down a bit too. Wietse agreed and when the Europeans caught up with us we stuck together as a group – they were friendly enough anyway. As soon as we reached the first open area with views towards the valley of ten peaks we knew that we were in for a special day again, just like the previous day on Nigel and Wilcox. The blue sky was offset by the surrounding snowy peaks and the bright color of larches which were turning into their brilliant fall attire.
We continued up the trail till our objective came into sight around the corner. It looked good! We all started feeling pretty positive about the day when we saw how dry the route was. The trail was good and well graded all the way up to the pass. I was slightly concerned about a group of 6 people on the loose slopes above the pass but the Carl had been up Temple twice already in the previous two years (!!) and led a good route through the rubble. Everyone else did a good job of keeping the loose rock on the mountain and our helmets (thankfully) didn’t get tested.
I had decided early on that I was going to treat this climb as a bit of a ‘relaxing’ trip, simply because it was special for me. I had waited three years to get these conditions for this particular peak and even bagged two alpine 11,000ers (Victoria South and Huber) before this one finally allowed me the chance. I was perfectly content to simply follow Wietse and the three Europeans (hey – isn’t Wietse a ‘European’ too?!!) up the slope. It’s not like route finding is a problem on Temple anyway. There is an obvious highway to follow in most cases.
As we worked our way towards the crux – the gray rock band – we could see a group of four struggling up it. They were using a rope, but it really looked like it was a Canadian Tire nylon, yellow braided rope (hmmm, I wander what the fall factor is for that stuff, good stretch too I’m sure 😐) and there was no belay either. The top guy who was a ‘veteran’ of several Mount Temple summits was bringing up three people without being attached to anything himself. They all had harnesses and helmets and it all seemed very professional until you realized that if any of the four slipped on the pebble-strewn terrain above the crux or on the crux itself, they would pull everyone else down the mountain with them! Sure, they probably wouldn’t actually die but it seemed a little silly to me.
This was my introduction to the different levels of scrambling ‘prowess’ on Temple. Don’t get me wrong. I have done foolish things on a mountain myself, and will most likely repeat some of them because I’m very forgetful but Temple seems like a big objective to be trying out interesting (i.e. dangerous) rope techniques and initiatory scrambles. Obviously this mountain is considered a jewel for a lot of people and many have made it their first or second scramble but based on several things I personally witnessed on this relatively non-busy day, I’m very surprised there aren’t more serious accidents on this massive pile of rock.
I found the crux to be harder than a normal Kane ‘moderate’ rating. It wasn’t very exposed but a fall would not tickle and the rock was near vertical and very worn (slick) from so many people using it. I’m 6 feet tall and I was using every inch of that to get up (and down). I wonder if the terrain slightly to climber’s left of the area we went up is less worn, has more hand holds and is a bit less steep? On the way down I noticed a cairn with flagging on this route and the main trail down seems to lead right to it as well. Kane mentions the first and second gullies are harder than the third but I wonder – how many gullies are there in total? If there’s four, than we were not in the recommended one. If there’s three than why does the descent trail go right to the top of the second gully if it’s so much harder than the third? I guess I’ll have to go back sometime to try it myself. I find it quite hard to believe that 7 year olds (or any short person) can get up the route we took without someone above hauling them up on a rope.
The woman from Austria was having a rough time with the crux sections. She wasn’t looking too comfortable already on the one tricky part before the main crux and I think the main crux made her even more nervous but she kept going anyway. (I think this is also a common occurrence on Temple – people pushing themselves way past their comfort level). Something that didn’t help any was the fact that the Europeans had to be back at the parking lot by 1700 so they were ‘pushing it’ a bit. I still felt that our pace was relaxed and Rod was keeping up pretty good too so I wasn’t sure if they were going to make their turn around time or not but that wasn’t our problem so I didn’t fuss about it. Ain’t I a nice guy? After the crux we took a bit of a break to let the four people on the yellow rope get ahead of us. After about 2.5 seconds I got tired of waiting and Wietse and I started up after them, heading for the yellow rocks above. Once at the yellow band I picked a solid, but steep line on climbers left while Wietse went around a bit to the right. We both passed the group of four-on-a-rope here. Rod and the Europeans were well below us at this point but they were past the crux so I felt comfortable getting ahead of Rod as he wouldn’t need help through anything else and the trail to the summit would be obvious. The yellow band was the most fun scrambling on the whole route and once through that it was back to scree bashing. I knew from my altimeter watch that I wasn’t there yet, but somehow after putting one foot in front of the other long enough, I was well ahead of the groups below. The views were simply unbelievable and rivaled the ones from the day before with large, familiar peaks getting lower than me all around. That’s the one depressing thing about going up Mount Temple. You know that you have to get higher than anything else you can spot nearby.
Eventually I popped out on the summit ridge and after a short walk was at the summit in just under 4 hours from the parking lot. I didn’t really have to contend with any snow other than the odd patch, so crampons and even the ice ax was not necessary this day. Wietse was soon at the top and he was followed by Rod and Carl. The other two Europeans turned back about 150 vertical meters from the summit – really too bad considering how close they were to one of the best views in the Rockies on one of the most gorgeous days of the year. (Actually, on hindsight, it was one of the most gorgeous days I’ve had on over 650 summits now that I’m editing this entry in 2019!)
I found a nice ledge on the east side of the summit which was completely out of the wind and allowed me to soak in the views and just relax for a bit. Wietse chose to head down right away with Carl (who had a ride to catch) and Rod stuck around for a few minutes before he also left. After a total time of about 30-40 minutes on the summit (and way too many photos) I also headed down, following Rod. A few more people had gained the summit in the meantime and seemed a bit surprised when I popped over the summit from my rest spot on the east face! The leader of the yellow rope team grimly commented that he would seriously not recommend anyone take shelter in that spot. I guess he considered it too risky… See? I do dumb things in the mountain too. :eyeroll:
The trip down was awesome for the most part. The views were staring right back at us the whole way. The trail is obvious and even though we were tempted by an apparent shortcut down scree slopes to skiers left we decided that we weren’t in a hurry anyway and the scree didn’t look that ‘soft’ either so we simply followed our ascent route to Sentinel Pass. We passed a few more people going up, I doubt most of them made it. One group had taken over 5 hours and were still 400 vertical meters from the summit with their party scattered all over the mountain in various states of unrest. Another party consisting of boy/girl friend seemed to be stuck half way up the crux as Rod and I continued down below them. I hope they made it off OK. She was really short and was complaining already at the bottom of the crux that she was at her limit. Of course he wanted to push on! Witnessing them stuck on the crux kind of made me wonder how many romantic day trips have been ruined by this mountain? I’m betting more than a few.
Once back at the pass, Rod and I hooked up with Wietse who was patiently waiting for us. A very pleasant walk down the trail with tons of other people brought us back to the parking lot at 1703, just in time to see the Europeans leaving. I really didn’t feel we were rushing things and we had a round trip time of just over 8 hours. I think the key to Mount Temple is just to keep moving. It’s the long lunch breaks on the way up and the bad route finding and/or weather on the way down that provide people with 12 hour epics on a very straight forward trip, IMHO.
Mount Temple was everything I expected, and more! It wasn’t quite the grand experience it could have been simply because of the highway to the top and the fact that I was spoiled with an equally nice day on Mount Victoria and Huber the weekend before. That being said, I am certain that some gorgeous fall day in the future will find me grunting my way back to the top to experience the amazing views from her summit again. And I don’t like to repeat mountains so that says something in itself.