Mount Temple

September 18, 2020

Climbing Mount Temple was a dream come true. It was one of those mountains that loomed large in my mind. Too large, actually. I accidentally blew it all out of proportion. I was so freaked out to do this!

While this was my first 11,000′ mountain, it was not the first time I’d been that high. I’ve trekked through Peru twice, and have been above 18,000′. Yes, there is scrambling on this route, but I’ve done harder and more sustained scrambles.

I don’t want to downplay Temple, because this mountain definitely demands respect. I am just saying that I personally did not need to stress over it as much as I did. I had the experience and skills to really enjoy it. Now that I’ve done it, I really want to do it again!

The main reason I want to go again is due to the California wild fires. I had a very narrow window to climb this mountain. The Temple season is short – waiting for the snow to melt by the end of July/early August, and before the snow starts again in September. My husband had emergency gall bladder surgery on August 15th, and he needed time to recover. Once my daughters were able to get time off work (at the same time!), we were left with only one day – Friday, September 18th.

Temple 1
This was our view of Mount Temple the night before we went up, as seen from the parking lot of the Post Hotel. Our hopes for a clear day were dashed, but at least we had warm and dry weather.

Unfortunately, this was the worst day for smoke, and our epic views were decidedly obscured. On the positive side, the smoke kept the crowds away and we had the mountain to ourselves for the most part. Temple was also in fantastic shape.

Gear

Proper boots are essential. We had quality, high ankle hiking boots with excellent tread. In the off chance of lingering snow at the summit, we packed gators, spikes and ice axes. The Grey band was worrisome with the long reach and the greasy holds, so we brought a short rope and a harness. We also had bear spray for Larch Valley below.

Overview

Hike to Sentinel Pass. Turn right, and make your way through the black rocks to the first Grey band, and then the second Grey band. Work your way up through the Light Brown rock, and the short rock band above. From there, it’s a long slog through constantly changing scree that is surprising steep, staying close to the ridge. Finally, the summit ridge comes into view, and it’s a lovely walk to the summit.

This photo is from Bob Spirko, looking across from Eiffel Peak. Pinnace Mountain is in front, but you can see the final ascent ridge. To orientate, about 2/3rds up you can see the flat expanse of the Light Brown band. I greatly admire Bob, and so should you. Please refer to his blog for all your scrambling needs.

Trail Head

Park at Moraine Lake at some unholy hour. We arrived by 4:30 am to ensure we had a spot. We needn’t have worried. The smoke kept the crowds at bay, and we were one of five cars.

We started off at 4:50 am with headlamps, and made our way to Sentinel Pass via Larch Valley. For directions to Sentinel Pass, click here.

Heading out around 5:00 am with my daughters Mackenzie and Kayla. Climbing Mt. Temple is pretty cool, but doing it with my family made this summit even more special.

Main Trail

We were alone on the trail, so made lots of noise to encourage any bears to move along. Despite the early hour, it was surprisingly warm. We could easily see stars and planets while hiking up, and were momentarily hopeful that the smoke had cleared.

Kayla’s phone has a “night” function so she could capture this shot of Mars hanging out above Larch Valley. When we could see the stars so clearly, we were hopeful that the smoke had cleared. No such luck.

As we neared the top of Sentinel Pass two hours later, the sky had lightened enough to turn off the headlamps.

A hiker celebrating as they reach Sentinel Pass, with Pinnacle soaring above.

At Sentinel Pass, we put on our helmets and started up the scree slope at the base of Mount Temple.

The trail from Sentinel Pass heading towards Mount Temple. The route is to hike to the base of the wall, and traverse across the base on the right.

This lower section is actually quite enjoyable. There are a variety of braided trails through the black rock, but we stayed left, closer to the ridge. There are several sections of rock ‘steps’ that were a nice contrast to churning scree.

The big stones in the black band below the first wall. This is SUCH a lovely change from the pure limestone scree slogs found almost everywhere else in the Canadian Rockies.
Mike hiking up through the big chunks of rock in the black band.

We hiked up to the base of the first wall, and traversed across the bottom, on the right.

We are just below the first rock wall. An airplane crossed the sky above us. Mike is a pilot, but has been off work since June due to Covid. Normally the skies would be full of con-trails, but not lately.

Once around the first wall, we continued up and around to the Grey band. We passed below another big wall.

As sometimes happens on big days with very early wake-ups, tempers were a bit frazzled. My daughters were arguing over something silly. As I was videoing this band, my hubby Mike decided to break the tension. It worked! Soon my daughters were laughing and joining in. No more tension for the rest of the climb.

Traversing across the base of the second big wall. Mike breaking the tension πŸ™‚

We soon came to the first of two scramble sections on the Grey band. This was marked by bits of flagging. I found the lower sections to be pretty slick, and they required a long reach. This was okay going up, but coming down was trickier.

This is the first of two scramble sections on the Grey band. They are short, but require a good, long reach.
Looking up at the crack of the first Grey band scramble.
Looking back down as Mackenzie climbs the first Grey band scramble.

The second Grey band scramble quickly follows the first. It was very similar – a long, slick stretch at the base, and then easier climbing the higher we got. To ensure you are climbing the right crack, look for the painted blue and yellow stripes.

The second Grey band scramble is marked with blue and yellow painted stripes.
Alisen is almost at the top of the second Grey band scramble.
Kayla is about 2/3rds of the way up the second Grey band scramble.

Once above the Grey band, it was another long ascent through large chunks of rock. The landscape changes colour again, from grey to light brown. This is one of the best parts about Mount Temple. I love how the mountain has these distinctive bands, and the quality of rock keeps changing as well. Always something new to enjoy.

Mike hiking up in the transition zone from grey to light brown rock.

We hiked up the massive Light Brown slope, keeping an eye on the summit ridge. We had one more small scramble section through the Light Brown band.

This is a short and fun little scramble. The pointy peak in the middle is not part of this – it’s actually a ways behind, but it makes for a good photo.
Mackenzie coming up the final scramble through the Light Brown band. In the background, the transition from Grey to Light Brown is quite distinct. This is the flat expanse seen in the “Overview” photo at the star of this report.

Once above the Light Brown scramble, the rock goes back to grey. From here, it is one long slog up through rock, and then scree, to the summit ridge.

We did have one major event that broke up the monotony – the sun came up! It was about 9:00 am when the sun finally peaked over the side of Mount Temple, and made for some great photos.

The sun finally peak above Temple at 9:00 am. We are about an hour from the summit, and 4 hours since we started from the parking lot. Two hours above Sentinel Pass.

I had a terrible head cold when I was climbing Mt. Temple, so I was never sure if it was super steep, or if I was just having a tough time from all the mouth breathing. Turns out, when I looked back on the elevation profile, the section above the Light Brown band to the start of the summit ridge is pretty darn steep!

Taking a breather on the steep scree slog. Below right is the Light Brown band. Waaay down below is Larch Valley.

As we headed up through the scree, the trail was a bit braided. Stay as close to the right ridge as possible. The rock is more consolidated. The trails on climber’s left are descent paths, and is a churn-fest that is best avoided.

It seems like we are getting close at this point, but there is still a lot of scree and elevation to go before we finally hit the base of the summit ridge.
Looking back down the trail. As you can see from this photo, we tried to stay as close to the right ridge as possible. I was sucking air pretty good from my head cold, but we were also towering above Pinnacle Mountain and Eiffel Peak.
This section was a bit of a grind, but the trail was pretty decent.

Once we hit the base of the summit ridge, the elevation gain backed way off. There is nothing nicer than a ridge walk to the summit, and Mt. Temple did not disappoint.

Mike heading off for the final enjoyable trip up the summit ridge of Mount Temple.
Alisen, Kayla and Mackenzie hiking the final section to the summit.

There was just one group of two guys ahead of us. They kindly stayed to take our pictures, finish their beer, and then descended. We joked that it was the only time they could drink beer at 10:00 am and not feel guilty.

On the summit of Mount Temple!!! This is such a special mountain, and I am so glad we could do it as a family. You can see footprints out onto the glacier. Please do not do this. There are cornices, and if you broke through, it is certain death.

Distance to the summit of Mount Temple is 9.2 km. The elevation gain is 1,664 m (5,491′). Elevation at the summit is 3,544 m (11,698′)! Time to the summit was 5 hours, 10 minutes.

The snow is part of the permanent glacier on the north side of Temple, which you can see from the highway and the village of Lake Louise.

The views were obscured, but we have enough time in these mountains to know that there is always another day. The best part was being able to share this amazing climb with my family.
This is the summit photo I wish I could have gotten. This fantastic shot is from Explor8ion. Like Bob Spirko, he is a gifted scrambler with a wealth of knowledge to share.
Below is a great view of Moraine Lake, with Consolation Lakes beyond. The Tower of Babel is the skinny spindle between the two lakes

Mount Temple Return

We had a good long summit lounge for almost 40 minutes. We normally do not hang out this long, but dang – it was so much fun up here, no one wanted to leave. We also had the summit to ourselves, so we didn’t feel the need to move along too quickly.

We descended the exact same way we went up. This is very important. There are several scree trails that lead directly down to Larch Valley. These look like a great time saver, but they are killers. Rock fall in this open scree area is common, and the official map shows were people have been killed. Who knows how many more have been injured.

We were worried about descending the Grey Bands, and the big reach required. To deal with this, we brought up our harnesses. Mike short-roped each of us down the bands, which was fantastic. No one actually slipped, but having the extra security of the rope was appreciated. It’s never a bad time to practice short rope skills in the mountains, especially when climbing with your kids.

On our way down, we had an accidental IG moment. We stopped to have a break, and Mike wandered out onto this platform. My daughters and I had a good laugh making Mike do various IG poses.

Mike hamming it up. Pinnacle Mountain is behind him, with Eiffel Peak looking over its shoulder.

While this next photo might look like an intentional IG photo, it is actually Kayla demonstrating the proper way to fall on scree. So many people get injured on mountains coming back down the scree slope. She fell backwards, onto her pack and butt. Then she put her other leg out straight to arrest her fall. Perfect technique!

Kayla in the perfect fall position after slipping on the loose scree.

We returned to Sentinel Pass, and put away our helmets. At this point, we morphed into every other hiker on the trail. This was a strange sensation – like coming back into civilization after backcountry skiing for a week.

The trek back to Moraine Lake was lovely. As usual, the kids shot ahead and we found them by the car relaxing on their packs. We went immediately to the water, and soaked our tired feet. The cool water reduced the swelling and make the ride back home much more enjoyable.

If you found this post useful, please do me a huge favour and click the Star button to “Like” it. You can also follow my blog, follow me on Instagram, or join my FaceBook page Al’s Adventurers.

Alisen

Totals – Tracked on Strava

Date: September 18, 2020
Group:  Four (Alisen, Mike, Mackenzie and Kayla)
Distance:   19.23 km
Elevation:  1819 m (6,000β€²)
Time:  10 hours (including 40 min lunch, and short-rope section)

There is a 6 km approach to Sentinel Pass before you begin the ascent of Mount Temple. It’s another 3 km to the summit of grinding high-angle vertical, and some scrambling, which doesn’t back off until you reach the final summit ridge.
The elevation to Sentinel Pass is very mild. Once we started ascending Mount Temple, we gained elevation quickly and sustained all the way to the top.
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Posted in Adventures, Scrambling
33 comments on “Mount Temple
  1. Gosh. That is amazing Alisen. Well done. A truly outstanding achievement, and very memorable. Thanks for providing such detailed information and beautiful pictures. (We did Devil’s Thumb on Friday. Thanks for your review of that hike too!)

  2. Sounds like such an incredible hike. Glad you were able to share the experience with your daughters and that your one-day window of weather turned out to be decent (minus the haze from the wildfires).

    • alisendopf says:

      Thank you so much! This is a memory I will cherish forever. To be frank though, my kids were a bit ho-hum about it. They are used to just doing whatever we do, without much thought as to difficulty or distance. Kids!

  3. K. Joseph says:

    I just found your blog. Enjoyed reading this post of your family adventure.

  4. I would climb. 🀠πŸ”₯

  5. Carla says:

    Beautiful 🌹

  6. love your content! keep up the great work!

  7. Precioso, me encanta!!!

  8. alisendopf says:

    Thank you – I love this mountain too πŸ’

  9. Loveblossom says:

    Beautiful and adorable 😍😍😍

  10. Angela Gaft says:

    Mountains are always look so powerful and amazing. And you are very brave!
    Thanks a lot for following Suitcase Travel blog! Have a wonderful day!

  11. I connected to an another level from your blog. It felt that I was hiking with you. I’ve never done this before but want to experience it for sure in the future. Thank you so much for this blog!

    • alisendopf says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words Jahnvi. Mount Temple is a very special mountain, so I am glad that you felt like you were there yourself.
      I think we can all find adventure, where ever we find ourselves. Adventure is a state of being, and being open to anything, and at any time. Blessings to you and your own personal search for adventure.

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