The southwest ridge, Alpine II, 5.5-5.6, up Pinnacle Mountain is a classic if for nothing more than from an historical perspective. After several failed attempts, it was finally put up in 1909 and later a hemp rope was anchored at the crux of the climb, which for years entertained modern climbers until its recent demise due to the harsh environs. However, despite its close proximity to the very popular scramble route up Mount Temple, the summit log reflected few visits. We were the first in 2006 on June 24th and the last and only previous entry was in August of 2005.
Park at the Moraine Lake Lodge at the end of Moraine Lake Road near Lake Louise. Hike along the right side of the lake to the signed Larch Valley Trail on the right. More often than not this trail has a 6 person minimum restriction due to local grizzly activity. As a climber, I have always ignored this precaution, but be warned that you can be fined for disobeying the restriction. Continue on the Larch Valley Trail for approximately 2000’ in elevation gain to the Minnestimma Lakes. Once you pass the smaller one on your right, venture off the trail to the left aiming for the Eiffel Peak and Pinnacle Mountain col. Travel along soft under footing and slab rock to the base of the scree slog leading up to the col. In June you should have enough snow left to pick lines that lead most of the way through a few short rock bands to the col another 1000’ in eleveation. We made it from the car to the col, 3000’+, in just over two hours.
The col is a good place to soak in the views, Valley of the Ten Peaks to the south and The Mitre to the north, as you put on your harness, helmet, etc. Contour right, on a faint path, around any immediate obstacles to the east and proceed a short distance to the second bowl over. This spot consists of water worn rock covered in scree with a small waterfall in the left corner. There is an obvious crack in the middle (photo) of the water worn rock, but you want to rope up and climb the next feature to the right. There was one piton on this pitch in 2006. I also found placement for a small stopper. Climb this low to middle 5th class section to right below two pillar blocks above. There were two rap stations here in 2006. Use the one right below the blocks to avoid causing rock fall on the second. I found no use for the rap station to the left, out into the gully.
Move left and follow the loose gully for several hundred feet of elevation gain, staying right to use the rock wall to assist in the ascent of loose scree, both small and large. In June, snow might help facilitate this ascent, but ice will be in existence as well. Follow the gully straight up. You are aiming slightly right for a large dark and damp chimney, several pitches long on top of the ridge. As you break out of a narrow section of the gully on your right, you will be right in front of the crux of this climb.
Stand away from this significant chimney and take time to study the route. You want to start in the chimney, but it will be icy and considered much more difficult than 5.5 if you want to climb it. Ascend a few meters until it is feasible to work your way right onto the face. This is actually the crux move and difficult to protect. I found marginal protection by placing a small nut (less than #1 metrolius) higher than I wanted to make the traverse. Therefore once I made the move right and found a decent cam placement, I used a long runner to allow the rope to raise above that first placement. I found this face climb easy going and to grade which can be an exception when using “old timers” ratings. I found complaints on the web that some believe the climb should be rated higher. Maybe 5.6 might be more appropriate. The real climbing is short lived on the whole route, but the exposure is above average in terms of run out.
You top out where remnants of an old hemp rope exist (2006) and find a piton rap station that is somewhat precarious (photo). From here, circumvent ledges to the right until the final summit ridge is in clear view. Attain the ridge and complete the climb in short order. In 2006, the summit log was still maintained in a very old copper canister. There was only one other entry of August, 2005. The views are just out of this world. Valley of the Ten Peaks, including Mount Deltaform and Mount Fay are to the south. Other clear mountain views include Mount Lefroy, Mount Temple, Mount Hungabee, Mount Victoria and even Mount Joffre and Mount Hector in the distance. Not to mention the close up view you receive of Effiel Peak and its infamous tower along the way.
Descend the same route taking two raps. Only one 60 meter rope is needed. Again, if you go early enough to take advantage of some left over snow, you will have a fast descent back to the Larch Valley.