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. Continue another 500’ up the “big Z” (photo) to the Pinnacle Mountain
- Mount Temple
col. From the col the Grand Sentinel comes into clear view (photo) to the northwest framed in front of Mount Lefroy
. Descend the col on a switchback trail of large scree until it makes sense to leave it for a traverse over snow and/or scree slopes on the north side of Pinnacle Mountain. You want to aim for the base of the south face of the Grand Sentinel. As you get closer, you will see a small notch you need to ascend to a mini col. This is a good spot in which to study all four pitches. Descend to the southwest corner of the south face and rope up.
FIRST PITCH, 5.5, 15 Meters-
Ascend the southwest blocky corner for a short distance to a solid ledge and bolted belay. I placed one piece of gear on this lead.
SECOND PITCH, 5.7, 25 Meters-
Ascend a nicely featured face moving right into a corner or two. It goes left as well, but the better line is right allowing better placement of gear. Top out at a bolted belay just left of the large left facing crack/corner.
THIRD PITCH, 5.8, 25 Meters-
The fun pitch of the route. Start into the large crack/corner and find easy placements for large gear and search hard for your smaller gear. You can move out onto the face a time or two and it is not the kind of sustained crack that keeps you pumped. There are plenty of rest opportunities. Climb to a roof above. Once directly underneath the roof, look for a piton in the middle of the under cling. Make sure to use a long runner here.
Move out and over the roof via an airy move or two on somewhat suspect rock. Once on top of the roof, you will find your third station. Some small people might be tempted to follow a tunnel underneath the roof but that would not be climbing, but rather caving.
FOURTH PITCH, 5.9, 25 Meters-
The fourth pitch is the crux pitch and although the guide book, Selected Alpine Climbs in the Canadian Rockies, suggest an alternative 5.4 escape, I cannot imagine taking such a long approach to an aesthetic climb like the Grand Sentinel and not finish it direct. This is actually a fantastic pitch and the only pitch on the route that is relatively void of loose rock. Start immediately above the bolted belay on top of Pitch 3. I felt this was the crux move of the pitch, getting the first few meters in and protected. Work your way into a depression. Move right and out of this spot to solid flakes offering nice placements directly above.
From here, finish the route.
The Grand Sentinel has limited seating capacity on its summit and a variety of rappel stations. We had the luxury of rapping the trad route, whereas a party ahead of us, chose to rap the sport route. The sport route has stations at 25 meter intervals, but they appeared to have some difficulty with it. We reached the ground before they did and I heard a significant amount of murmuring on their rappel. Both teams used double ropes. I believe more than anything, they might not have been used to free air rapping and that is the kind of rappel they had. In any regard, you should be able to rap off of either route.
Double 60 Meter Ropes, quite a bit of large gear, i.e. hexes and cams, if you really want to protect that 3rd pitch well. Small gear will be needed for the 4th pitch. There is a sling on a chock stone that you can attach a draw to in the lower section of the 3rd pitch as well as a piton to protect the roof move with.
Helmet, climbing shoes, plenty of draws, harness, etc. Trail runners and hiking poles are adequate for the approach. Bear spray for the infamous Larch Valley Trail.
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