Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mount Temple

Even though the scramble to the summit of Mount Temple involves a short
hand-over-hand climb, it is an extensive yet easy scramble to the summit of
this highest of the peaks in this guidebook. The only reason it is included,
and consequently exposing you to a bit of risk, is because of the absolute euphoria of being at such high altitude. Temple is the third-highest peak in the southern Rockies, the highest in the Lake Louise area, and overall the 11th-highest in the Canadian Rockies. There is much to be said for being so high up that you are looking down on the top of every other mountain in sight. A climbing helmet is recommended for the rock wall.

Elevation gain: 1675

Trailhead: GPS: N51 19 43.3 W116 10 54.0
Elevation: 1873 m

Sentinel Pass: GPS: N51 20 26.0 W116 13 18.6
Elevation: 2619 m

Summit: GPS: N51 21 03.7 W116 12 23.0
Elevation: 3548 m

Trailhead: From the town of Lake Louise, drive up Lake Louise Drive
toward the Chateau and turn left on Moraine Lake Road. Continue to the
Moraine Lake parking lot, approximately 12 km from the turnoff. Hike
the right side of the lake starting behind the Chateau until you reach
Larch Valley Trail.

The 6-km walk to Sentinel Pass covers an ascent via switchbacks
through forest, subalpine and alpine regions while passing lakes and
streams. Initially, the trail is an hour of relentless switchbacks, finally levelling
off to a picturesque walk through the meadows of Larch Valley toward
the base of Sentinel Pass. Covering the meadows should take 20 to 30 minutes,
allowing your body to rejuvenate before pushing on to the summit.
The lower of the Minnestimma lakes is nestled five minutes off the trail to the right,
while the upper, larger one is farther up the trail on the left.
This is the last source of water before the summit, and it is advisable
to filter, as the water in these lakes is still.
The apex of Sentinel Pass is in sight long before you reach it, and the
long, arduous switchbacks become visible as you get closer. The Sentinel
Pass crest has gained you 746 m, leaving 929 m left to climb. It is here
that you may concede there is too much more work to do, but if you wish
to feel pure jubilation and triumph, and see what very few people on the
planet have seen, then pick up and carry on. This is an experience like no
other in your life.

The path courses up the southwest slope on scree trails marked by too
many cairns for about a half hour until it comes to the only intimidating
part of the entire trip. Here, a helmet should be worn, as there is loose
rock all around. Whether a hiker is going up or coming down, the risk of
someone dislodging a rock on your head is very real. When you arrive at
an impasse that is about 10 to 15 m high, there are two possible approaches.
The first one is a clearly visible hand-over-hand climb up a well-worn
route that is easier than it looks. It is a good idea to take a length of rope
on this trip to haul your daypacks up and down this bluff. The second
option is a narrow crack in the left side of the wall, which has far less
exposure but is tricky to find and harder to climb.

From here on up, for the next hour and a half, the route is a remarkable
network of trails and switchbacks offering the grandest of views as
you weave up the side of the mountain to the large summit. Breathing
becomes markedly difficult because the air thins out, making the summit
push somewhat longer and more laborious than it appears.
From here, the views are astounding as you look down on everything
around you. To the southwest are Hungabee Mountain and Wenkchemna
Peak with Horseshoe Glacier and Horseshoe Lake at the base of them.
You can see forever from up here.

Walter Wilcox, with Samuel Allen and L.F. Frissell, first summited Mount
Temple in 1894. In early August, they departed the Lake Louise Chalet
with fellow climbers George Warrington and Yandell Henderson and a
Stoney Indian named Enoch Wildman to camp in and explore the wilderness
of Paradise Valley. They enjoyed a couple of days of climbing and
investigating this territory, and on August 17 Wilcox, Allen and Frissell
decided to attempt the first ascent of Mount Temple.
The peak had been named ten years earlier by George Mercer Dawson
(1849–1901), a geologist, anthropologist, author, teacher, civil servant, geographer
and paleontologist. Dawson was born in Nova Scotia and schooled
at McGill College in Montreal, the Royal School of Mines in London
and the Geological Survey of Great Britain. He published a considerable
body of influential scientific work. It was in 1884, when Dawson first came
to the Rockies as leader of the British Association for the Advancement
of Science Team, that he discovered Mount Temple. He named the peak
for Sir Richard Temple (1826–1902), who, after a notable career in India, in
particular as Governor of Bombay, returned to England and held numerous
public offices, including as Conservative MP and as Privy Councillor.

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