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.
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.
After half an hour or so of climbing switchbacks above Moraine Lake, we entered the gentle slopes of the Larch Valley.
An early view of Eiffel Peak (at least I believe it’s Eiffel Peak).
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.
Part of our group (the faster three) hiking up the steep switchbacks toward Sentinel Pass.
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.
Having a break on the steep slopes above Sentinel Pass.
Another view of the relentless steepness of Mount Temple. Above Sentinel Pass, the trail was less defined.
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.
Mount Hungabee toward the southwest.
Eiffel Peak becomes more prominent from the upper slopes of Mount Temple.
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.
The final climb was on snow but didn’t require any extra gear.
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.
A view from the summit of Mount Temple.
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.
A closer look at Mount Hungabee. The mountain is on the Continental divide between the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia.
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.
Here’s me near the same location with the Valley of the Ten Peaks in the background.
A canyon in the area of the Valley of the Ten Peaks.
One last look at the meadows in the Larch Valley.
Adjacent to the Moraine Lake parking lot, a field of fireweed, Indian paintbrush, asters, and other mountain flowers were in full bloom.
I took this photo early the next morning on the Coquihalla Highway, south of Merritt, British Columbia.
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
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