The North Face of Mount Temple first caught my attention about 13 years ago while on my first alpine trip to Canada. It’s hard not to get captivated by this monster. With a nearly 5,000ft North face capped by seracs, it dominates the Lake Louise landscape and calls to all alpinist.
North face of Mt. Temple
Ben scouting the route from Lake Annette
Timing had finally worked out and I was on my way North with Ben Brunsvold to attempt Temple. Mid season conditions made it apparent that the best route choice would be the Greenwood/Jones. It’s a rock rib left of center on the face, protected from the obvious objective hazards above. I had some friends climb it a few years back and they were forced to bivy on route, so we decided it would be best to camp at the base the night before and bring the bivy gear on route.
Nightfall from our bivy at Lake Annette
Ben low on the route
We had a fairly sleepless night due to pikas trying to get in our gear and worries from the recent bear activity in the area. 5 am came too quickly and I was rudely awakened by the alarm blaring in my ear. While I was discovering that our gear made it through the night, I was startled by voices. I scanned the landscape and then spotted them, two climbers hiking through the talus. “We are totally screwed”, I thought. There was only one route they would be going for and sure enough it was the same we planned on climbing. With the objective hazard high and the loose nature of the rock, I thought it would be a horrible idea to follow these other climbers. After some serious thinking, Ben and I decided to assume the responsibility and risk associated with climbing behind another party. We quickly packed up and headed for the base of the route.
Sunrise from our bivy
The other group had an hour start on us so we started climbing as soon as we reached the base. One short pitch got us to easy forth class climbing and we put the ropes away. As we were scrambling up, we noticed the other guys climbing a dihedral. There was some easier looking terrain to the right so we headed that way and continued soloing. After about 12 pitches, we worked our way back to the prominent rib and pulled the ropes back out. We had passed the others and were about a pitch and a half in front of them. Ben and I started dispatching pitch after pitch of loose limestone rock. Route finding proved to be difficult from time to time, but we were always able to work our way through it.
The final summit slopes
Finally cramponing up
Eventually after enough route finding issues, the other guys caught up to us and we began working as one team. Despite have 3 different route descriptions; it still wasn’t obvious where to go. The others (Mikael and Rafal from Canada) were pushing for a day ascent, but weren’t insisting on passing, so I continued to lead the group. We finally reached a feature on the wall that lead us to believe we were close to the summit slopes. I traversed, rappelled, traversed, and climbed a pitch just as the light was fading. I belayed everyone up to this meager ledge I was on just as darkness overtook us. It appeared we were one pitch from the summit slopes, but we were now on a ledge that could support a four-person bivy. The decision was made to call it quit and settle in for the night.
Rafal on the summit ridge
Mikael and Rafal were without bivy gear so we spread the 2 bags that we had between the four of us. It was a cold uncomfortable night, but we all managed to get some rest. When the sun began to rise at 5am, we knew it was time to get going. We were all eager to get to the summit slopes and off the wall. Rafal climbed through the final barrier and brought us all up. We could finally see the summit slopes and were just some scrambling from them. We quickly packed the ropes away and scrambled to the snow.
View from the top of Moraine Lake
Ben enjoying success on his first Canadian giant
Once we had our crampons on, the going was easy. We roped up and trudged up the ridgeline to the summit. It was 9:30 in the morning and we were psyched to be heading down to food and water. After a 3-hour descent we were at Moraine Lake and Rafal’s amazing wife showed up with food, water, and beer. We laughed as we walked past the tourists who had no idea what we just experienced. But unfortunately for us, it was time to return to that same comfy reality. Until next time….