Friday, November 8, 2013

Mt Temple, North Face, Greenwood Jones, V, 5.10

Rising an impressive 1500 meters from the bottom of Paradise Valley, the North face of Mt Temple commands respect. I wanted to climb this face ever since I laid eyes on it from the Lake Louise town site car park. I remember staring up at it and telling myself I had to climb it before I left Canada, a definite milestone for my climbing career. I wanted to climb it in the summer of 2012 but the stars did not align, partners, conditions, weather, the usual things.

One of my regular climbing partners, Jasmin Fauteux and I had been talking about climbing this face and we quickly decided on the classic Greenwood Jones route. This line climbs the North East Buttress, providing one of the safest lines up the formidable face. The route starts off following a quartzite rib that leads to a steepening limestone headwall, with a few loose, hard to protect, somewhat sketchy traverses in between. The route is typical to classic rockies alpine climbing with a combination of loose rock, tricky route finding and questionable gear. Once you have finished the face, you meet the east ridge and the summit ice field, where you traverse the final stretch to the summit.

I was intimidated by this route, reading many trip reports of people bivvying and or getting off route and finding themselves in a less than ideal situation. Jasmin and I decided on climbing as fast and light as possible. We agreed on taking one single rope, which would offer faster rope management, meaning we would move quicker but it also meant we were more committed. Retreating with only a single 60m rope on a big face like that could be epic, not to mention extremely time consuming and expensive (we would end up leaving our whole rack behind). We climbed with 30l packs, one ice tool each, crampons, pair of climbing shoes each, a puffy down jacket, headlamps, energy bars, 2l of water, a jetboil (incase we had to bivvy and needed to melt snow for water), and a pack of ramen noodles each for dinner if we got benighted.

On the 9th of July at 2:30am we drove from Banff to the Paradise Valley car park in Lake Louise. We left the car and started our approach at 3:30am, reaching the base of the face at 5:00am. We wasted no time in identifying our buttress and started off with an initial 60m pitch. This rope length positioned us onto the face, amongst easier terrain, where we both agreed we felt comfortable enough to take off the rope and solo for a while. We moved quickly and made a few hundred meters progress before we pulled out the rope and started simul climbing. The climbing was fairly straight foward, every now and again we would reach a section that was steep enough to warrant a belay but our transitions were fast and efficient and we kept moving at a good pace.There were a few pitches where the rock was absolutely terrible, and the odd microwave sized rock was knocked down. A cool head and delicate climbing skills were definitely strong assets for some sections of this climb.

*Jasmin gearing up at the base.

*Jasmin on the sketchy traverse

Jasmin standing underneath the upper limestone headwall.

Before we knew it we had negotiated the chossy traverse and were hanging off a fixed pin belay at the base of the limestone headwall. Eight or so pitches and we would reach the summit ice field. The rock quality improved and just as well because the climbing was getting steeper and more exposed. I lead the first pitch of the headwall, an old school 5.8 crack. It provided secure climbing but was quite run out. I stretched the rope and managed to build a belay in a small alcove beneath a wall of loose rock. I decided to belay jas from the alcove, hiding from anything that he might knock down from above. A wise decision, affirmed minutes later by a brick sized piece of rock landing where I was standing just moments earlier.

* Jasmin coming up the second last pitch of the Headwall

*Jasmin leaving the belay and setting off the tackle the final pitch. I deliberately 
pitched it here to get this photo!

*Me coming up the final pitch, the exposure is wild! 

* The Summit Ice Field.

* Jasmin on the final traverse to the summit. 

* Taking it all in, Moraine Lake in the valley below.

The climbing was incredible and the rock quality so much better than expected, on par with some of the more solid routes on Yamnuska. We found all the pin belays the book spoke of and we avoided getting off route at all, which we were stoked about. The exposure on the final two pitches was mind blowing, we were so high up. The trees resembled blades of grass and the lakes looked more like tiny ponds. We were making excellent time, using the seracs to our right as a reliable gauge of how high we were on the face. We topped out at 1:30pm with only the summit ice field and conriced East Ridge left to negotiate before reaching the summit of 3544m. We took off our climbing shoes and changed into approach shoes and crampons. This setup is lighter than climbing with and carrying mountain boots but does not offer the same stability and security. There was less snow than I would have liked on the final stretch of the ridge and this last section definitely felt like the most exposed and insecure part of the whole day.

We reached the summit at 2:30pm where we shared a hug and enjoyed the post climb euphoria that is like no other feeling in the world. This feeling is yet so fleeting and keeps climbers hungry for more for the rest of their lives. We were disappinted to find there was much more snow on the descent than we excepted, which made for a tedious, slippery, ankle breaking descent. Three and a half hours later and we had reached the Moraine Lake car park where we talked to friendly tourists into driving us a short ways down the road back to our car. In the end it was a 14.5 hour day, car to car. Considering we were mentally prepared to get benighted or spend 24 hours climbing on the route we were happy with the style in which we climbed the route and the time we did it in.


  1. Awesome read. Beautiful pics too. What camera are you bringing up there with you?

  2. Thanks James, much appreciated! Most of my climbing shots are taken with a Canon G12. Nice little camera.

  3. Note* I use Adobe Lightroom for post production

  4. Amazing! Still boggles my mind that you do this stuff daily! Looking forward to some more shots from the G6! Nice one :)