In the clouds up Mt Temple

Mount Temple is a big sucker, it stands mighty at 3544m and dominates the Lake Louise skyline. In fact it’s the 9th tallest in the Canadian Rockies, so climbing it was a very rewarding feat but certainly not without it’s challenges.

What’s bewildering and yet enticing is how the biggest mountain is actually one of the easiest to summit! It’s sheer cliffs make it look an impossible endeavor but nature worked it’s magic and hidden behind the south west ridge is a relatively easy scramble route.

So with this challenge in mind four of us set off out of Jasper for a couple of days in the hills of Lake Louise. There was Arne (Arn-ee) from Spain, Donny in his homeland Canada, Jakob (Yak-ob) from Czech Republic and Aussie me.

That afternoon before the next day’s climb we “warmed up” around the shores of Lake Louise with the 7km one way Plain of Six Glaciers hike. Thankfully by 5pm most of the 4000 visitors per day were gone.

The last kilometre to the viewpoint was wicked. Glaciers galore and within stones throw of Mt Lefroy and Mt Victoria.

Mt Lefroy
Mt Lefroy (3421m)

Some carbs before bed, alarm set to 5am and we were set to go bag a peak the next day. Or so we hoped…

Our hearts sank the next morning as we sat around in darkness looking at a sky full of grey clouds and mountains swiped from view.

The weather forecast issued last night was no joke as it tends to be in the mountains…showers.

Donny and I just about called Temple out of the equation to Arne’s extreme dismay but after a pancake breakie and news of a better forecast we agreed to do the hike to Sentinel Pass anyway and see what’s up from there.

8:45am we hit the trailhead at a beautiful cloud covered Moraine Lake. The hike to Sentinel Pass through Larch Valley is premier but it also surprised me how short it was, around 6km and 700m vertical.

There was debate over which one was Temple, until it came into full view and all doubt was dashed.

First views
That giant monolith on the right with a sprinkling of snow is Temple. Sentinel pass is the low point to the left.

The word from Banff National Park was there were five grizzly bears in the area, which is the reason they had a minimum group size of four law in place. We didn’t see any of them unfortunately.

Upon reaching Sentinel Pass we had sun and blue skies! It felt amazing and we decided to push on and be willing to turn back at any time if things changed. From here it’s still 2.5km and 900m vertical to the top.

Sun at Sentinel pass. Looking over the pass towards Paradise Valley.
Sun at Sentinel pass. Looking over the pass towards Paradise Valley.

The next incline was straightforward. Follow the trail, stay close, and don’t kick rocks down the mountain. Thanks to Arne we had the route description in hand, and that proved really handy – even if Arne’s rock kicking prowess wasn’t so helpful.

Lets go!
Lets go!

The biggest danger on this mountain is rockfall and yet even knowing that I was surprised at just how loose the ground is. You need to be extra careful and you’d be crazy not to wear a helmet.

The crux of the mountain (hardest part) is really not too bad at all. If your good on your feet and can scramble up rocks you’ll be fine. We took a harder way up by mistake and Arne got stuck there for a bit, but with some help we got him moving again. Not before I kicked a rock down onto his helmet though – whoops.

The crux
The crux

From here the summit ridge is really close and upon reaching it the views were incredible back down over Paradise and Larch Valleys.

Donny and I
Donny and I
Arne and Jakob enjoying a seat and snacks with a view.
Arne and Jakob enjoying a seat and snacks with a view.

Standing here looking upwards it literally looked like a trail into the sky – where upon reaching the end you’d be given a set of wings to glide off the mountain ever so gracefully.

The only way is up
The mountain eerily disappeared ahead under a blanket of clouds

But no it was just hard heart pounding work up the steepest continuous grade of the whole route. I lost track of time but I think it took about an hour along the summit ridge.

At 3350m – ish we were engulfed in clouds and cold. Progress vertically slowed and I definitely noticed the lack of oxygen in the air, although not nearly to the extent as on Mt Blanc which spirals up to a dizzying 4810m!

Jakob ahead. We made sure to stay in sight of each other.
Jakob ahead. We made sure to stay in sight of each other from here on.

Never knowing where the summit was it jumped upon us all of a sudden. We did it!

The summit flag was a welcome landmark. Even if we could only see 20m ahead and had no view we had done it. It was a new experience being engulfed by clouds. We hung around at the top for about 20 minutes before another couple joined us and by then we were feeling the chill and ready to head down.

I love this photo, it shows just how happy we all were to be here.
I love this photo, it shows just how happy everyone was to make it. From left, Donny, Arne, Jakob and I.
There was a book to sign for making the summit. Credit to Arne for the nicknames.
There was a book to sign for making the summit. Credit to Arne for the nicknames.

Descending was really fast and fun sliding through the scree. My hiking pole was invaluable in helping keep balance and take some weight off the legs.

We returned back to Lake Moraine in good time at 4:30pm (total time of 7:45) where I jumped in the lake to complete my brother’s challenge set back in November.

Wooo! Chilly, refreshing and yet so satisfying. I’m sure I surprised a good amount of tourists ha.

This day presented many challenges of leadership, teamwork, and collaboration – and even despite missing out on unbelievable sunny views and the leg work involved to reach the top was not that physically demanding, Temple is one of the most rewarding mountains I’ve ever climbed.

Thanks to Arne, Donny and Jakob for making this day a day to remember.

Berg Lake trail and back in Jasper

I’m back in my second home, Jasper, and the mountains are a calling. I’ve sorted myself a job until mid October and right now summer is in full swing. There’s no time to waste! Let me explain…

Summer in the Canadian Rockies is oh so short when compared to seven months of snowy winter. Snow snow go away come again another day.

For people like me who want to walk along ridges and stand in places looking down on mountains, summer only lasts two and a half months. That’s it. Mid July until late September.

Let’s break it down. That’s 75 days. Factor in working five days a week and I’m left with 21 days off. Furthermore consider that one in three days are likely to have some form of precipitation that leaves just 14 days.

14 days of work free and snow free summer days. 14 days…

I’ve made a list of adventures for the summer and one of the big ticket items was a three day backpacking trip to Berg Lake. It’s a hidden gem behind Mount Robson – the tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies by a long shot at 3954m, a whopping 3100m above the visitor centre.

Mount Robson from the highway. It's almost always covered in clouds.
Mount Robson from the highway near the visitor centre. It’s almost always covered in clouds.
Interesting comparison. This was Robson on 21 Dec 2012 when I visited it.
Interesting comparison. This was Mount Robson on 21 Dec 2012 when I visited it.

Ben and I started our adventure hitch hiking from Jasper. We waited an hour which wasn’t too bad and arrived fresh at the visitor centre at midday.

Our destination was Adolphus campground, still a whopping 28km away with a heavy pack.

The 21km trail to Berg Lake is the most popular in the Rockies, so when we started out we were pleasantly surprised. We only saw a dozen others on the trail all day. We figured as it was the day after a long weekend we hit the jackpot. Ding ding ding.

The first 10km was nothing too exciting. Kinney Lake was the highlight, but pressing on and up the first part of the 800m days elevation gain we were engulfed inside the Valley of a Thousand Falls.

Valley of a Thousand Falls.
Valley of a Thousand Falls.

It’s an impressive place. A big wide valley with mountain peaks protruding in the distance and a fair few giant waterfalls cascading down the vertical walls. It reminded me of Yosemite even, and that’s saying something cause that place rocks.

The most awesome part though was witnessing a bizarre stream junction. One stream flowing with brown water and the other blue water. After intersecting there was a definite line separating the two shades for hundreds of metres.

Brown vs blue
Brown vs blue
The stream in the valley
The stream in the valley

Stretching the legs again the trail turned evil, presenting a steep grade that just spelled out lactic acid. This must have been round about kilometre 12 and over the following 3.5km we gained 450m. But it was worth it.

Up here we glimpsed a rather ferocious looking waterfall – Emperor Falls. I didn’t think too much of it until we branched off the main trail to check it out. Woahhhh!!!

Emperor Falls
Emperor Falls and Mount Robson behind

The endless power in this fall was tremendous. Constant, unrelently, loud. I have to say the most impressive waterfall I’ve experienced. It is a showcase of the extreme forces of nature.

What contributed to it’s impact was we could walk right up beside where the water was crashing down. On our hike out we even braved the tame looking mist (which is actually painfully strong) and stood beneath the edge of the fall. It was like being hailed on!

It really puts things in perspective
It really puts things in perspective. Nature rules.

We reached Berg Lake near sunset and it’s just like the postcard. Bliss.

Ben and I take it all in
Ben and I take it all in. Berg glacier on the left, Mist glacier on the right and mighty Mt Robson.

Camping out in Canada is different than in Australia.

Over here it’s all about securing your food away from a hungry bear’s grasp and definitely not keeping food inside your tent. Unless you want an uninvited guest at night. I slept within reach of bear spray to let my mind rest easy.

We cooked our three course meal of pasta, pasta, and rice well away from our tents and hoisted our food bag up a tree. Even at this height it’s a bit low but it’s the best we could do.

Lucky bears can't untie knots
Lucky bears can’t untie knots

It’s off putting to think a mighty bear might be roaming around me while I sleep but I was fine. Slept great after such an exhausting eight hour grind.

The second day we lightened our loads and hiked up another 800m higher and 25km round trip to Snowbird pass. It was really worth it.

This trail takes you right beside Robson glacier. It’s so close and gave me such an appreciation of the size of it, especially when compared to the tiny dots that were people.

See the people down by the blue pond bottom right...
See the people down by the blue pond bottom right…

On top of that you are presented with a 180 degree view of the Reef icefield upon reaching Snowbird Pass. It’s a great tough day hike, but take note that it’s only open from 1 July onwards.

At snowbird pass. The halfway point of our trip. "It's all down hill from here" says Ben.
At snowbird pass. The halfway point of our trip. “It’s all down hill from here” says Ben.
Ben checks out the view. Not bad, not bad.
Ben checks out the storm on the horizon. Not bad, not bad.

The last day we spent hiking back out with a good dose of time allocated to swimming in Berg Lake and Emperor Falls. We were so so grateful that the sun appeared after we awoke to mist.

There was no way I was jumping in a biting cold Berg Lake with the sun hiding, or the Falls for that matter.

Arrgghhh. The hailing waterfall.
Arrgghhh. The hailing waterfall.
I love this one. Ben just feeling the moment.
I love this one. Ben just feeling the moment.

I said to Ben as we were pacing along the shore feeling refreshed after our swim, “This is just how hiking in the Canadian Rockies looks in guidebooks”.

The sun was out, the glaciers shining, and the water was vivid.

There’s no doubt this is a premier trail and it’s popular for a reason. It presents the most glaciers I’ve seen in such close proximity, plus blue lakes, waterfalls, tall mountains and provides plenty of camping space. Just try to go mid week.