This past week in the Canadian Rockies, enough snow has fallen at high elevations and the daytime temperatures have remained cool enough that scrambling season has clearly ended. Sure, any summit is accessible any time of year, if you’re a black-belt mountaineer. But a patina of snow and/or ice makes a long, steep, rough scramble significantly more challenging and possibly dangerous for most of us. So between now and ski season, it’s wise to hike rather than scramble.
Our final scramble of the season was Mt. Temple. We did it on the last, truly summer day of what has been little better than a mild winter these past four months here in Canmore and Banff.
Looming above Lake Louise, 3543-m (11,624-ft) Mt. Temple wears a helmet of ice. From the lake, the peak appears insurmountably vertical. But from the other side, starting at Moraine Lake (1884 m / 6181 ft), a pedestrian glideway of a hiking trail leads to 2373-m (7785-ft) Sentinel Pass. From there, it’s only a moderate scramble to the summit of Mt. Temple. Total elevation gain: 1659 m (5442 ft). We completed the round trip in nine hours.
As you can see, the summit panorama is glorious. And the ascent, though taxing, is enjoyable. If you’re an outdoor athlete with a head for heights and enough scrambling experience to be comfortable on steep talus and scree, you should find Mt. Temple a reasonable goal. The ideal time to do it is late summer, once the route is snow free. Wait for three days of perfect weather. Plan your trip for the middle day. Bring a helmet and, just in case, an ice axe. Pack enough clothing layers that you can enjoy sitting on the summit for an hour even if the wind is screaming. And try to get an alpine start, so you won’t be racing down the mountain at sunset. You’ll want plenty of time to choose the optimal route—particularly on the descent.
Our thanks to Ken, Tracy, John and Ian — our companions on Mt. Temple — for ensuring we didn’t sleep in that morning, as is our slothful tendency.