Mt. Temple ScrambleI wrote this for a school writing assignment but I think it might work as a trip report!
Mt. Temple Scramble
"Stepho", wake up! I opened my eyes to the first morning light glowing faintly through the tent roof and realized the sun would not rise for a few hours. I got out of my sleeping bag and put on a jacket, threw on boots and went outside to be welcomed by the freezing cold pre-dawn air. I boiled some water and made a cup of steaming cocoa. As I sipped the warm beverage I packed my backpack with emergency supplies, extra clothing and several pounds of food and water to last for the next ten to fourteen hours, and lastly my camera and GPS. We checked to make sure we had everything and then climbed into our van and headed out of the Lake Louise campground.
My dad and I were going to attempt to climb Mt. Temple, the 13th highest mountain in Canada while my mom and brother hiked with us to the top of the pass between Mt. Temple and Eiffel Peak (the mountain immediately to west of Mt. Temple). The car rounded the turn onto Moraine Lake road and I looked up and saw its north face towering seven thousand feet above the valley floor with its majestic hanging glacier near the summit. Fortunately we would be climbing the much easier southwest face, which is a class-3, all-day scramble as compared to the class 5.8 multi-day rock and ice climb that the north face presents. As I read through my climbing book I was surprised that twenty-two people had died on the mountain we were going to climb. Among them were ten unsupervised youths who were climbing the mountain without their two leaders. They had only one ice axe between them and were climbing in the late spring (one of the most treacherous times to climb in the Canadian Rockies). Seven of them were swept 200 meters to their deaths. We were climbing in the late summer when avalanches are not a threat.
A little later the car came around a bend that revealed the famous Valley of the Ten Peaks that used to be on the back of the Canadian twenty dollar bill. Soon we were at the nearly deserted parking lot. The only other cars were those of some other people climbing the challenging south side and one other group climbing the southwest face. We hiked up to the trail sign at the beginning of the six mile trail to the base of the mountain. Since there had been a grizzly bear sighting near Eiffel Lake at the base of Sentinel Pass, we talked to each other in loud voices. As time went on and the trail switch-backed through the trees we able to look down through the larches on the bright greenish blue Moraine Lake. The lake is so bright that Parks Canada once tried to sue visitors to the lake, claiming that they dyed it. They later discovered that the coloring is due to runoff from the valley’s ten glaciers.
After another hour of hiking the trail flattened out a little bit and we found ourselves in a sort of slanted meadow. We continued on, flanked by Canada Anemone and besieged by mosquitoes. Then around a bend the mountain was revealed at last. Only a mile away, Eiffel Peak stood with its gigantic cliffs towering above the meadow. To its right, loomed the immense bulk of Mt. Temple with its lofty summit. In between was my family’s destination. Sentinel Pass loomed in front of us looking impossibly steep. I could see several switchbacks carved into the steep shale. We went by a beautiful snow-fed lake and stopped to take some pictures of the reflection of a mountain in the water. After that we resumed hiking. When I got halfway up to the top of the pass I stopped and turned and was amazed by the panorama of distant mountains. It took a little time before I spotted my family a short way behind crossing some snow. I continued on to the top and discovered why the valley on the other side of the pass was called Paradise Valley. The lower parts of it were filled with trees and a stream. At the tree line the trees faded to shale that led up to magnificent mountains and glaciers. I took some pictures while I waited for the rest of my family. The rest of my family suddenly appeared behind me. I heard my dad say, “I don’t know about this.” My dad was gazing up at the cliff looming above us. I explained that you walk under the cliff and on the other side out of view is a steep shale gully. He decided we could give it a try.
We bid farewell to my mom and my brother and headed towards the gully. Sure enough we found the gully. It was narrow and about a thousand feet long, although we entered it mid-way up it. Every so often we looked down on the meadow far below our burgeoning height. Down in the meadow we could see the trail meandering up to the base of the pass. Soon we were out of the gully and found ourselves at the base of a giant headwall. My dad suggested going far to the right of the gully. After traversing for about fifteen minutes my dad got tired and I carried his water, adding it to the many pounds of food and water I was also carrying. We came across an older guy who had turned back a little way above us. He told us to climb a big snow couloir across the face. We looked up at it once and knew that the couloir was not the right way. Instead we climbed a grey rock band. At the top we traversed into a mini gully that led us up to another rock band. This one was much harder and took a little while to climb. At the top we found ourselves on steeply angled shale leading up to a yellow cliff. As we approached the cliff we noticed a small chimney (a very steep gap in the rock, like a near-vertical gully that is rock). At that point my dad was very tired and we had no idea if we were on the right track or not. We also didn’t know if the chimney was twenty feet or five hundred feet tall. Unfortunately our guide book was not very descriptive so we turned around. But before we started heading down I marked the spot on my GPS so that if I were to attempt climb it again I would know where I had made it before. I also took some pictures of the surrounding peaks. We found a little trail that took us around the rock bands instead of over them. Eventually we found the gully that took us down to the top of Sentinel Pass.
We ate lunch on a giant rock overlooking Paradise Valley. When we finished we began the hike down to the lake at the base of the pass. Given that it was bear territory and there was a “group of six or more” rule, we hiked behind another small group of hikers. Within no time we were at the far edge of the meadow and I took several photos of Eiffel Peak, Sentinel Pass, and Mt. Temple. The trail took a dive and again we were ambling down endless switchbacks. Through the canopy of larches, Moraine Lake was again visible with its radiant turquoise shining through the trees. After about an hour the trail sign suddenly popped out of the trees. We walked across the parking lot and found a climber who we saw in the parking lot in the morning. He had a book that explained in detail the route we had tried. It turned out that you are supposed to go up the first rock wall and traverse a little bit to the right of it and climb some shale on the right side of it. The chimney was about five hundred feet long. We were really glad that we didn’t climb it. We found my mom and brother, got into our car and headed back to our campsite. Once we got back everyone collapsed and rested. Next time we would have a good climbing guidebook. The Pink line is the correct route. The blue line traces the route my dad and I tried. We made it to 9900 feet.