Temple Crag is home to one of the longest routes in the Sierras. Most of Temple Crag's routes are grade III or more. All routes will excite the soul and light the imagination. Wild exposure on towering gendarmes and striking aretes are the highlights. Recommended routes: Moon Goddess Arete (III 5.7), Sun Ribbon Arete (IV 5.9....which features a Tyrolean traverse, Dark Star (V 5.10 A0).....all five star routes. Get an early start on Sun Ribbon Arete (20 pitches) and Dark Star (26 pitches)!! See R.J. Secor's 'High Sierra: Peaks, Passes and Trails' for details. View Temple Crag slide show
Take the I-395 to the town of Big Pine. Once in town, head west up to the Glacier Lodge trailhead and park at roads end. If you fall short logistically, the Glacier Lodge store/resturant has a few "amenaties" (hops and barley, porkrinds and greasy sliders are the norm). Take the North Fork trail of Big Pine Creek up to Third Lake (approx 7 miles). There are fairly good bivy sites scattered around the lake. If taking an approach line around the eastern side of Third Lake, use caution in the talus field of Mt. Alice (slides occur often!). Upon summiting, take the southeastern descent to Contact Pass and return to Third Lake. Better yet.....have some fun and glissade!!
A wilderness permit can be obtained from the Inyo National Forest Ranger Station in Lone Pine. As a word of caution, the east side trailhead quotas get "gobbled up" quick. Plan on obtaining a permit in advance through the National Forest Service by email or reservation service by photo. NFS Pacific Southwest web address: click here or call for quotas @ (760) 873-2400.
Ideally, the summer months are the best to climb any of Temple Crags routes (early June to September). It has been known to snow in the middle of July, so prepare for inclimate weather when the cirrus clouds appear! There have been parties that have done winter ascents but the Palisades area seems to get the brunt of any cold front!
Camping is permitted only with a wilderness permit issued. If you intend on building a campfire, obtain a fire permit as well. The National Forest Service is considering the North Pal and Middle Pal as watersheds. Take your chances on the summit. The Sierras are famous for thunderstorms and lightning!
The best way to get current weather conditions is to call the Inyo Ranger Station or Sierra eastside weather conditions in order to get the most accurate weather forecasts. As far as the rock goes, Temple Crag is one of the more solid monoliths in the eastern Sierras. Routes between Venusian Blind Arete and Temple Crag's North Buttress features high quality granite; fissured and blocky. There are a few loose sections between aretes. Eclipsed Arete and the routes to it's left are known for loose rock on the initial pitches and loose blocks around the final gendarmes...keep a good head about your shoulders and a vigilant belayer. Better yet, use a helmet!
The summit register is under a large cairn (6 feet!!), where Sun Ribbon finishes. If you find weathered slings at the escape descents, replace them. And as the norm goes, pick up and pack out any trash.......even if it's not yours. A lot of trash has been found in the notch above the third gendarme of Sun Ribbon Arete (tape, Capri Sun juice box, cigarette butts and ......a condom?!?)
My personal thanks goes out to rpc and his wife Shirley for the fabulous photos shots of Moon Goddess Arete and their many useful suggestions. Their contributions have made this page a better resource for SP member and climbers in general. I also want to personally thank Alois Smrz for his insight and alpine wisdom. As a respected climber who has put up several FA's in the Sierra, Alois has always been a source of inspiration and a pillar of knowledge. Kudos to you all! Gotta love this crag!!