Sunday, September 25, 2016

Larch Valley/Sentinel Pass and Mt. Temple Attempt

14 km
1228 m elevation
Beautiful view of Valley of the Ten Peaks and 3/4 couloir 
Although Saturday came bright and sunny, it was cold and the rocks were very wet from the night before. We made a last minute decision to try and scramble up Mt. Temple. Little did we know that the rain on our trailer the night had been heavy snowfall in the alpine above. We arrived at Moraine Lake far too late (9:30) and had to park almost 1.5 km down the road from the parking lot. It is a very popular place at this time of year as the larch trees change colour. There was a bear advisory in place so we had to hike in groups of 4. We joined up with two unsuspecting hikers who we dragged up the Larch Valley Trail much quicker than either of them had been anticipating. Good news for them, they had more time to enjoy the views and less time spent walking up switchbacks in the trees!
Valley of the Ten Peaks in all its glory
The Larch Valley was teaming with tourists and Kyle and I were on a mission. We didn't stop long much to our hiker partners dismay. Somehow we managed to convince them that hiking to Sentinel Pass would be a good idea too. By that point, nobody was paying any heed to the bear advisory anyways so we parted ways with our exhausted companions and continued up towards Mt. Temple.
Snow on the ground in the Larch Valley
We should have known when we hit snow low in the larch valley that we were going to be in for a challenge, but we pushed on nonetheless. Hikers kept asking us why we had ice axes and crampons, pondering if we knew something that they didn't. "Nope," we responded, pointing to Mt. Temple, "we are going up there," and then they would look at us like we were insane.
Our first good look at our route up Temple. Much snowier than we were expecting. Red arrow shows our turn-around spot at the 2nd grey band
From Sentinel Pass, we were surprised and relieved to see that there was already a boot-pack up the scrambling route and we could see another party up high on the mountain. We followed their tracks up, but were soon passing the other scramblers as they turned back, stating "the snow was really deep up high." We wanted to have a look for ourselves so kept going. Eventually we had passed all 7 of the other scramblers and had to start breaking our own trail. This occurred just above the first grey band (below the red arrow on the photo above). Typically the scrambling route goes up the rocks to the right of the gully marked by the arrow. Because of the snowy conditions, scrambling up the rocks was out of the question so we attempted the gully. It turns out that the others were correct and the snow just got deeper and deeper. It was a full on tunneling mission up the steep slope and eventually we had had enough of snow walrusing and turned back. We had spent almost an hour in the gully and had barely made it 100 m.
Deep snow forced us to turn back
It was a quick descent back to Sentinal Pass and without our objective figuratively looming over us anymore, we were able to take some breaks and enjoy the views.
Another brave scrambler (in jeans) approaches to try his luck on Temple. He actually ended up making it higher than we did.
Slip-sliding my way down Mt. Temple
Views of Pinnacle Mountain (foreground), Eiffel Peak (behind Pinnacle) and the tarn below
Great view of 3/4 couloir, it looks ready to ski!
We stopped for lunch down in the valley, then joined up with some new hikers for the descent to Moraine Lake. Despite turning around, we still had a pretty big day and I was thankful for a warm trailer and cold beer to return too. It looks like the summer scrambling season is coming to a close and we will be strapping on skis sooner rather than later. I can't wait!
Kyle in the snow
Larch Valley!
Beautiful fall colours

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