My Hike to the Summit of Mount Temple, Banff National Park

December 19, 2011 — 18 Comments
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Mount Temple in Banff National Park, Canada, had been on my hiking bucket list for a few years, ever since I had completed another prominent Banff hike, Mount Rundle. Temple and Rundle are known to be among the most difficult hikes in the park that are, at most, moderate scrambles, and require no climbing gear. However, they’re both long, grueling climbs, and fine accomplishments.

I had signed up to join a Mount Temple hike back in July with the Calgary Scrambling and Mountaineering Club. At that time, Banff had a late snowmelt, and a good part of the upper slopes were still covered with ice and snow. As I get older, I am becoming more risk adverse and declined to attempt it. I was happy when there was another hike scheduled for late August, and I was able to join on what turned out to be a very warm Monday morning. I left on the Saturday before so I could take my time with the drive, and stop along the way to read and take photos. The previous week, I had slightly torn a calf muscle on another hike and wasn’t confident I was ready for Mount Temple. I had to be careful, and took it easy before the hike.

Mount Temple is the highest peak in the Lake Louise area, and can be seen from much of the Trans Canada Highway to Castle Junction. It’s an amazing site and has been the focus of not only climbers, but photographers and painters. Canadian Group of Seven painter, Lawren Harris’s Mount Temple Mountain Sketch LII was sold by Heffel Auction House in 2010 for $468,000 CDN. The mountain was first climbed by Samuel Allen of Philadelphia in 1895, and by many thousands of others since. According to the Peakfinder website, there are seven climbing routes along with the scrambling route that our group followed. The scrambling route is 16 kilometers return with an elevation gain of 1702 meters. The trailhead for Mount Temple, Eiffel Peak, and Sentinel Pass is at the Moraine Lake parking lot. Access is by a windy paved road, 15 kilometers from the Lake Louise townsite.

Photo of Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Canada

At the trailhead, there was a sign that required groups to be a minimum of four because of grizzly bear activity in the Larch Valley. We were lucky because with cancellations, our group only had four. Here, a couple was waiting and we welcomed them to join our group.

Photo of Mt. Temple, Sentinal Pass Trailhead Banff National Park, Canada

 

After half an hour or so of climbing switchbacks above Moraine Lake, we entered the gentle slopes of the Larch Valley.

Photo of Larch Valley, Mt. Temple Trail Banff National Park, Canada

 

An early view of Eiffel Peak (at least I believe it’s Eiffel Peak).

Photo of Mt Temple Trail, Larch Valley, Banff National Park, Canada

 

The view of Mount Temple (right) and Sentinel Pass (center-left) from a lower lake or tarn. From this point on, the hike becomes more gruelling. From the HikeBuzz website, the stats to Sentinel Pass are: 6km, 723 meters elevation gain, average grade is 12%. From there to the summit of Mount Temple: 2km, 979 meters elevation gain, average grade is 47%.  Sentinel Pass itself is a popular destination for hikers, and allows for views of Mount Hungabee and the Paradise Valley.

Photo of Mt Temple, Sentinel Pass, Banff National Park, Canada from lower Tarn

 

Part of our group (the faster three) hiking up the steep switchbacks toward Sentinel Pass.

Photo of the Climb To Sentinel Pass, Mt Temple Trail, Banff National Park, Canada

 

The lower lake or tarn from Sentinel Pass. The Larch Valley is on the left and the lower slopes of Eiffel Peak are on the right. The peaks in left background are in the Valley of the Ten Peaks.

Photo of lower tarn and Larch Valley, Mt Temple Trail, Banff National Park, Canada

 

 Having a break on the steep slopes above Sentinel Pass.

Photo of the slopes of Mount Temple Trail, Banff National Park, Canada above Sentinel pass

 

Another view of the relentless steepness of Mount Temple. Above Sentinel Pass, the trail was less defined.

Photo of steep climb on Mount Temple, Banff National Park, Canada

 

The cruz approximately half way up the slopes of Mount Temple. This was the most difficult part of the hike, in terms of scrambling, and was certainly harder than I had expected. There was no way around it. I made it up fine but I always find descending the crux is more difficult.

Photo of crux on Mt Temple Trail, Banff National Park, Canada

 

 Mount Hungabee toward the southwest.

Photo of Mount Hungabee, Rugged rocky montain, blue sky, Banff National Park, Canada

 

Eiffel Peak becomes more prominent from the upper slopes of Mount Temple.

Photo of Eiffel Peak from Mt Temple Trail, Banff National Park, Canada

 

The wind on the upper slopes of Temple gusted and at times, it was difficult to stand. There was a storm coming from the west and we knew it was important to summit and descend to lower slopes quickly. Possibly it was from the affect of less oxygen at higher levels, but I had to take frequent, short breaks. I had to crouch down during my breaks or the wind would blow me over. This was the last photo I took, and then had to concentrate on getting to the summit.

Photo of Mount Temple Trail, near summit, Banff National Park, Canada

 

The final climb was on snow but didn’t require any extra gear.

Photo of final climb to Mount Temple Summit, Banff National Park, Canada

 

Here I’m on the summit of Mount Temple. It was so windy that we only stayed for about 15 minutes. The approaching storm looked scary with dark clouds and the top of a high mountain was the last place we wanted to be. We knew of the possibility of danger, and thought about other deaths on the mountain, including a group of seven Americans in 1955. We had to be careful on the summit with cornices and didn’t wander close to the edge. I had brought my helmet as a precaution with the possibility of falling rock, but it also helped keep my head warm.

Photo of a snow-covered summit of Mont Temple Banff National Park, Canada

 

A view from the summit of Mount Temple.

Photo from Mt Temple Summit, Banff National Park, Canada

 

From the Camino My Way YouTube channel, here’s a quick look from the summit of Mount Temple. Honestly, the wind was gusting so hard, it was difficult to stand, let alone take a video.

 

I had my camera out again for the steep descent. Mount Hungabee and the end of the Paradise Valley is on the right.

Photo of Mt Temple Summit, Scree and Paradise Valley, Banff National Park, Canada

 

A closer look at Mount Hungabee. The mountain is on the Continental divide between the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia.

Photo of Mt Temple Trail, Paradise Valley, Banff National Park, Canada

 

The descent was very fast and I did a lot of scree skiing. If you have never done that on steep slopes, it can be fun but the wipeouts can be punishing and painful. I fell once and had a long scrape on my forearm. Our group took a lunch break about half way down the mountain. On the descent, we passed a group of hikers in their 20’s, who started about the same time as we did. However, they were an hour and a half behind us and were headed for the worst weather on the summit. We warned them to no avail.

Photo of Boulders, Larch Valley, Banff National Park, Canada

 

Here’s me near the same location with the Valley of the Ten Peaks in the background.

Photo of Randall St. Germain in the Larch Valley, Banff National Park, Canada

 

A canyon in the area of the Valley of the Ten Peaks.

Photo of a canyon in the Larch Valley, Banff National Park, Canada

 

One last look at the meadows in the Larch Valley.

Photo of Peaks, Larch Valley, Banff National Park, Canada

 

Adjacent to the Moraine Lake parking lot, a field of fireweed, Indian paintbrush, asters, and other mountain flowers were in full bloom.

Photo of a Field of mountain flowers, near Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Canada.

 

I took this photo early the next morning on the Coquihalla Highway, south of Merritt, British Columbia.

Photo of a Sunrise, Coquihalla Hwy, South of Merritt, B.C. Canada

 

I hope you enjoyed this post featuring my anticipated hike to the summit of Mount Temple. Thanks to Gary and Carl of the Calgary Scrambling and Mountaineering Club for leading the hike. The young couple who joined us got engaged on the summit, and I wish them the best. If you haven’t seen it yet, please read another post from Banff, VIEWS OF RUNDLE, BANFF NATIONAL PARK 

If you have my book, Camino de Santiago In 20 Days, or have ordered it, I truly appreciate your support. It’s also out on Kindle. My Goodreads page has reviews and more information. Please share this post, and thanks for your time.
 


About Randall St. Germain

Randall St. Germain, author of Camino de Santiago In 20 Days, is a middle-aged Canadian Boy who is passionate about nature, photography, hiking, music, and self-improvement. After the death of his mother, he chose to walk the famous pilgrimage, the Camino de Santiago, across the north of Spain, despite knowing little about it. He certainly didn’t plan to write a book until the latter days of his Camino. Similar to walking the Camino, writing and publishing a book was a learning experience. It was also very rewarding, and part of his ongoing journey. Please join him as he takes you along on his journey in Camino de Santiago In 20 Days, and on his blog Camino My Way.

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18 responses to My Hike to the Summit of Mount Temple, Banff National Park

  1. WOW! Magnificient pictures making you speechless. May I ask you which camera do you use?

    • Thanks Ute. On this hike, I used a Canon 60D which, at the time, I only had for three weeks. It’s a little heavy, but I managed to carry it along on all my hikes last year. Keep checking back. I’ll have more hiking posts soon.

  2. Looks great!!! Stunning photos. A worthy trek after the Camino for sure!

    • Yes, hiking in the Canadian Rockies is a wonderful experience, and I feel fortunate every time I go. Thanks for your comment, Anita.

  3. Wow! Congrats on making it to the top of Mount Temple. We are lucky enough to live right here at Lake Louise. We look at this beautiful peak every day, but I can assure you we will never be attempting to summit it.

    Thanks for sharing your account of the climb and photos so that we can experience what it looks like from up there.

    Cheers,
    Audrey

  4. Thanks Audrey, I appreciate it. I’m glad I did the hike, but don’t feel the need again anytime soon. It was fun, but very grueling. I’ll look forward to going to the Rockies later this year, though. You’re lucky to live in such a beautiful area.

  5. Fantastic trip! reminds me of our Brandywine mountains trip
    🙂

    • Different in terms of landscape and climbing. Mount Temple is also much steeper and higher. Both are excellent hikes though and should not be missed if you have the chance. Thanks for your comment.

  6. Beautiful country! I was a kid when I last visited Banff, but I will never forget it. Would love to make another trip at some point.

    • Yes, Banff is beautiful. I made two trips last year, and hope to return later this summer. Hope you can again soon.

  7. Hello – Great info. How fit do you have to be to hike Mt Temple? I’m 50 decent shape, but won’t say top shape. Visiting Banff area next week for 7 days alone and found your article. Also how long is the hike to the summit so I can plan the time accordingly.
    Thanks,
    Nick

  8. Nick, you should be fairly fit, especially this time of year as the days are shorter. Also, you should check the conditions and be prepared as Banff got a fair amount of snow last week and I’m not sure how much has melted. I think it took our group about 8 hours but we went at a good pace. Be prepared for a scramble about half way up Mount Temple and less oxygen near the summit. Hope that helps. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  9. Great pics, thanks for sharing! We are planning Temple climb this summer and looking forward to it. Thought is first week in August. We are taking a guide from Canmore for extra help on the couple of rock sections.

    Hoping for sunny day!

    Cheers,

    Barry

  10. Thanks Barry. I had this hike originally as an early August hike but the late Spring that year made it safer later in the month. The tricky spot is further down than I had thought. Otherwise, a good, hard hike. I wish you the best and a safe return 🙂

  11. Thanks for the post and info on this hike, I admire your courage to pursue this climb despite of the elements you encountered. I made it to Sentinel summit this summer but the weather got so bad and we had to bail out, it was my second attempt – both were just as bad.
    I will plan to do this hike in the summer

    Best regards,

    -Angelito

    • Sentinel pass is still a good hike but you made the right choice if the weather went bad. I was lucky as the bad weather was arriving as we descended and we didn’t have any issues. I wouldn’t want to go through all that effort without a view either. Good luck with ascending Temple next year 🙂

  12. Hi Randall.

    Thank you for the post and information! I am climbing the mountain in 3 days and would love any final tips. Is the trail pretty straight forward leading up toward the summit? Did you forget any gear that you wished that you had? I have summited a few mountains in Washington State but non have had scrambling. Do you have tips for getting down the scrambling portion of it? I feel that getting down will be much more challenging than getting up.

    Thank you in advance!

    -Ellie

    • Ellie, thanks for your comment. I wish you were going a few weeks later as it has been a cool last month in Western Canada. When I went, the trip leader delayed the hike from early August to late August due to the cooler Summer that year. First, make sure you have 6 people for the Larch Valley (unless restrictions have changed). If you have someone experienced on the route, that would be great. We had someone who had summited before but mid mountain is still tricky. This is above Sentinel Pass where the trail is quite straight forward (not straight though) to that point. The crux was the trickiest for me and a lot harder than I expected. I hope it’s flagged a little better now. Above that, you will see the slope to the peak which is hopefully easy to follow. However, there may be a lot more snow than I had encountered. Be very careful. Consider microspikes and know where the trail or edge is. Be aware of cornices, especially at the summit where I would aim for the center and not wander too far. Dress for the conditions and make sure you have a wind jacket, even if it is warm and sunny when you start. I also noticed the lesser O2 on the final approach and slowed, but you may not. Getting down the crux is always harder for me. Below that, we chose a different route to the lake and descended the steep (and sharp) scree. Bring good boots. I hope that helps a bit. I wish you a very safe hike. Please let me know how you do. All the best 🙂

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