First it was bears. Yesterday it was wind.
As I mentioned Sunday, Rick and I headed out bright and early in the morning to make a second attempt to summit Mount Temple. We had tried to do this on Friday only to be told that our group of three was not enough. Bears prefer snacks of three hikers or less, and so having a group of four would all but guarantee us safe passageway through the park and up the mountain.
Yesterday’s attempt started well, although there was some unease given a storm that had blown in the day before. Snow was expected on the mountain. This of course was not something that bothered us, but we knew if it there were too much, or the weather were still bad, chances of climbing Mount Temple would dwindle to almost zero pretty quickly.
We1 arrived at Moraine Lake and began our hike shortly after 6 am. It was dark and vision was pretty limited, but the air was crisp and clean, and we were all stoked to be heading out on the first leg to get to the top of Mount Temple.
In short time we found ourselves in Larch Valley and then beneath Sentinel Pass. The sun was beginning to kiss the mountains and we were greeted with some pretty spectacular views of Eiffel Peak, Pinnacle Mountain, and Mount Temple. It was also clear, however, that Mount Temple’s peak was shrouded in cloud. As we approached Sentinel, we could tell that the wind was going to be a challenge.
About half way up to Sentinel Pass the gusting wind really picked up. There were several times that each of Rick, Paul, and myself were almost blown off the mountain. We trucked on, making it to Sentinel and the views of the valley below that it afforded. We still could not see the summit of Mount Temple. The wind was still strong. Snow was falling above.
After some discussion, the group decided that it was too dangerous to continue. The winds below were gusting quite strong and those would only be more intense as we rose and had to travel across large distances that were unprotected by the elements.
It was a tough decision, especially given how much we wanted to see the world from the top of Mount Temple, but it was absolutely the correct decision.
Fortunately we were not completely thwarted as our fearless guide Joe offered us an alternative. We descended from Sentinel and made our way through Larch Valley to the base of Mount Eiffel – a 3084 metre (10118 foot) chunk of rock.
The climb started simple enough – cutting through some Larch trees, then making our way up a hill littered with rocks and what I assume was shale2. Eventually we were scrambling over rocks and boulders, through large snow drifts and snow-covered slopes of rock. At times the snow was hip deep. It was slippery, cold, and windy, and we loved every second of it.
For much of the hike I spent my time carefully stepping where Joe had stepped. Retracing his footprints through the snow as we slowly ascended the mountain. Every now and then I would stop to look up – partly to judge our progress, but mainly to see the beauty of the Rockies, the lakes, and the trees below me. Every view was breathtaking and awe-inspiring. I can’t begin to describe how amazing it was.
After much hard work, several snack breaks, some cold fingers and toes, we reached the summit. We were a little tired, but mainly exhilarated – we had reached another peak, and the beauty that lay before us was remarkable. It may have been exhaustion or dehydration, but I’m pretty sure that I was a little overwhelmed by it all.
We spent about an hour on the mountain – snapping pictures, enjoying the scenery, and laughing – a lot. Eventually, however, we had to make our way down. While much faster going down the mountain than going up, the way was slightly more treacherous given the melting snow and mud that had appeared. Ignoring a few slips and spills, we all made it out unscathed – and I think, better climbers because of our guide.
Thanks to Joe for keeping us safe. Thanks to Banff Lake Louise Tourism for setting us up on another hike. And thanks to Rick and Paul for such an awesome day. It wouldn’t have been the same without you.
1 Where we included Rick, myself, our friend Paul, Stu and Bethany from Banff Lake Louise Tourism, and our guide Joe from MountainGuide.com.
2 It may have been some other type of rock, but it looked like shale to me.
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