Mount Temple - Rockies - East RidgeDate:
Hunter and I had planned a weeklong trip into the interior of BC/Rockies to try and climb some routes that had been on our radar for a few years. We had intended on South Ridge of Gimli, East Ridge of Temple and if weather held perhaps a line or two in the Bugs or Mount Louise but weather turned us home after Temple. After having a great time on Gimli (Aug 10) Hunter and I drove to Lake Louise to check into the hostel (which was super nice!) and scope out the approach for the following day (Aug 12). We noted that the weather was forecasted to deteriorate starting Tuesday evening so we hoped that we would at least have reasonable weather on the ascent.
Hunter and I spent a fair amount of time going over trip reports and info to try and minimize the difficulties with route finding. For the most part we didnít have any major issues during the climb but there are certainly many variations on this route, especially on the lower part of the ridge. From the information we gathered the most critical routefinding portion of the East ridge is knowing where exactly to enter into the black towers and up to the summit ridge, I read several stories on epics and rescues from people heading up the wrong gully(s).
At 4:15am the next day Hunter and I started from the pullout located about 100m north from the main slide path at the base of the East ridge as mentioned in the 11,000ers book (seen easily from Google earth and in the photo of Hunter below). There was another party that started shortly before us and we followed them up the slide path, which takes you up into a broad gully. In the dark we scrambled up this gully until a few carrions led us out of the gully to the right and onto more face climbing. At this point we passed the other party and we juggled our way through various ledges going left, then right at times until we popped out onto the prominent beginning of the East Ridge with good views all around as the morning light started to fade in. I noted that the other party came up a different way, more to the climberís right, and caught up with us as we were beginning the ridge.
So the correct way from this location, it seemed to us anyways, was to travel approx 60m horizontally to the right into a large, loose, gully. Hunter and I started upwards a little to early and wound up scrambling vertical terrain until we realized it was best to traverse into that gully. This gully went up for a few rope lengths until you got to another broad ledge below the steep ridge. At this location we again followed a carrion rightward on a ledge for around 50m and then we climbed up, angling left back toward the ridge proper. This brought us to the ridge top where we carried on scrambling easy terrain to the base of what we understood was the little step.
Hunter coming up the lower ridge
Me heading up the little step as morning sunlight catches us on the ridge
There are a few short vertical moves that get you over this section. We roped up for this pitch and noticed from below that someone had placed a bolt at the crux move (In fact all belays on the big step and the black towers had bolted belays). After quickly climbing over the little step we were greeted with our first views of the big step and the rest of the upper mountain. Here we briefly walked along the ridge, up a short gully between the next bump, and in no time we we standing under the big step, at around 7:30am.
First views of the big step and the upper mountain
Our line up the big step with belay locations in yellow
From below the line didn't seem obvious until we started climbing it. It looks steep, and it is, but there are jugs everywhere. The summit post description for the next 4 pitches turned out to be very accurate and was very helpful. The climbing never seemed harder then 5.7 and the protection was quite reasonable with a few run outs.
Hunter took the first pitch (25m) which started just left of the ridge crest and ended at a belay station on nice ledge on top of a large block. The other party started the 1st pitch after us but we never saw them after that and we werenít sure what happened, if they bailed or continued??
Hunter on the 1st pitch of the big step
On the 2nd pitch (50m) I climbed up and left of the belay for about 3m then continued left of the ridge crest until near the end I went around right of the crest to another large ledge and the belay. Unfortunately a yellow metolious cam I placed walked far into a crack and is now fixed for future parties.
Heading up the 2nd pitch
The 3rd pitch was short (20m) and Hunter went up and then right to a large broad ledge where he brought me up. Thereafter, as the route description says, we headed left on a ledge to a long easy gully that we simul climbed for one rope legth up to the last technical part of this section. The last pitch was 25m and went up the obvious steep and dark chimney which had two short cruxes, one on the far right corner and one topping out.
Hunter heading up the steep and dark chimney on the 4rth pitch
After this chimney we went left and quickly walked up easy terrain to the crest where we could now see the final portion of the route heading up to the black towers. Time was now 10:00am.
View of our route to the black towers, final gully obscured by a buttress.
Here we changed back to our boots, put the rope away, and scrambled the rest of the easy terrain up to the top of the ridge where it ended at a headwall with the traverse toward the black towers appearing obvious to our left, at spots on this last ridge section we went right of the ridge crest, then back on top. Heading now on this scree ledge toward the black towers there was a visible track in the scree where other parties had begun the traverse prior. We headed along this track along the ledges to a location where there was a good size creek originating from the snow melt above, which we used to fill our bottles and rehydrate. At the creek we scrambled to the upper ledge which still had snow. We walked about 80m in the moat leftward where we came across the large and distinct flake which signals the proper way up the black towers. There is a bolted anchor at the top of the flake. The actual gully in the black towers that we ascended was fairly obscured on the approach by a buttress so it wasnít completely evident where we would exactly be climbing until we were standing underneath.
The critical flake/chimney that has a bolted anchor at the top, providing the proper access up the black towers. We thought the most difficult moves in the black towers was the short dark corner seen directly above this flake, easy low 5th.
We opted to continue free soloing unless we encountered terrain warranting a rope. I think the most difficult part of the black towers was probably the first pitch, with a steep corner. The rest of the 4-5 pitches were fairly mellow (4rth-low 5th) but I would add a little disconcerting. The topo accurately describes this section of the mountain when it says to climb the gully on downward sloping holds covered in gravel. This part of the route is easy but very loose with pea gravel on every hold. Nevertheless we worked our way up into the main gully (shown best on the MCR photo outline http://informalex.org/mharc/html/MCR/2011-08/jpgeea8MYP0Q9.jpg
) and followed it to the end and topped out on the summit ridge at 12:00pm.
Final pitches up the black tower are on loose gravely edges
On the summit ridge we put on crampons and with ice axes we strolled over varied ice, snow and cornices to the summit with minimal difficulty arriving at 1:30pm, roughly 9hrs from the car. The skies were becoming overcast quickly and fearing rain we took some photos and then began our descent down the hikers trail and down the road back to our car. With several breaks and chit chats with other hikers we got back to our car around 4hrs from the top.
Final walk up to the summit via the snow/ice ridge
Overall the East Ridge is a beautiful line but like everyone knows is very loose in places. It is also fairly long and committing such that retreat off the route higher up would be troublesome.
We brought a single set of cams (plus x2 red and yellow link cams), half set nuts, x8 runners, x2 pitons (didnít need) and x2 screws for upper glacier (didnít need), rock shoes for the big step and a single rope.