“Bzzz, bzzzt" my phone was vibrating, at 4 AM. I had no idea who on earth would try and get a hold of me at this time, and how do I even have service where I am right now. “You have reached today’s activity goal with plenty of time to spare!” It was just a notification from an app. I took a sip of water and stared up at the clear starry sky, not an inkling of sunlight yet, and the giant wall we had our eyes set on was just a bare outline.
Living in Lake Louise, Mount Temple's North Face is always towering over you. A grand yet intimidating wall with countless legends and notorious accidents on it. As a climber, you can't help but be drawn to it. Over the summer during slow work days, I would often take binoculars from our display cabinet and stare at the routes trying to see if they were in yet. When the routes short climbing window was beginning, I started getting intense pain in my jaw, my wisdom teeth had to come out.
"You can drive a truck up these veins! I have no idea how I missed". I winced as the anesthesiologist put in a second needle to start my IV. I woke up a few hours later with four gaping holes in my mouth. While getting your wisdom teeth out isn't a major procedure, a general anesthetic takes its toll on you, and the doctor told me "No strenuous activity for the next two weeks." I texted my friend Bryce that night asking if he wanted to climb the Greenwood-Locke the next weekend.
We teamed up with his friend Mike as well, and everyone rolled into my house Saturday evening too finish packing once I got off work. "You have four hours and twenty-one minutes until your alarm sounds" Michael wasn't happy with his phone letting him know this fun fact. At 2 AM alarms were going off, and we were stuffing down leftovers for a quick breakfast then hit the road, 45 minutes after waking up we were hiking in on the trailhead.
The couloir was easy to travel, gaining thousands of feet of elevation over Lake Annette in a couple hours. At times the snow would disappear, and we would scramble around on the good quartzite. We came across a short ledge where you can continue up the couloir to a scary traverse to get established on the rock or climb a wet chimney and slabs to gain a second snow slope that led to the end of the traverse. With our early start, we opted for the ladder. The chimney climbed at a grade harder only because pulling off any of the massive blocks would maim your belayer.
As a group of three it was easiest to lead in blocks of 3-4 pitches, then swap over the lead to the next. Bryce took the first three to get us up and established into the route, and then Mike took over. Clipping a fixed nut, smearing his left mountain boot he stabbed his right foot up onto a jug hoping it would hold, an often uncertainty in the Rockies. Bryce looked at me "I'm keeping my crampons on for this pitch." We both stepped in small cracks and laughed our way up the first move of the pitch, Bryce fell a few moves after that, Mike laughed back, then asked to make sure he was alright. "Good thing I found the bolt for this belay," he said as we arrived at him.
At the top of the next pitch, Mike gained the scree ledge that needs to be traversed, showering us with rocks as he was trying to get a belay established, then even more as the ropes were being pulled up. Bryce and I climbed as fast as possible that one can go with crampons on a slab to get out of dangers way. We were all staring at the traverse as a group, 60 meters of front pointing kitty litter choss, typical five zero climbing. Mike set off to begin building the world’s worst rope swing a couple of thousand feet off the ground, a few pieces right away then 40 meters unprotected to the other side. Bryce and I tip-toed traversing across, not wanting to try the rope swing he made for us.
Now on the rock, we stopped for a bite of food, and I needed some pain killers, my teeth were killing me, we’d been moving for over 8 hours now. I think this counted as "strenuous activity". I had brought a couple of bars and a wide variety of gels to try on this climb, Mike looked at me and said, "I feel like those are good, but imagine how jealous somebody would be if all you have are gels and the other guy whips out a giant sandwich." I don’t think he noticed the envy in my eyes as I watched him eat sandwich…
I took over the next set of leads and wandered up either side of the protruding rib, looking for the line of weakness but often missing it. Mike would come to a belay and laugh saying “Yeah I went left there, was way easier than what you did” as he passed me the rack. Continuing up the rib the rock got steeper and more exposed, but more solid, pulling into the last pitch of the rib I laybacked into a splitter hand crack then jammed my way up the brilliant rock. 4000ft above Lake Annette I was standing on top of a giant protruding rib on the North Face of Temple, I could see my house, looking down at it rather than up at this route.
A quick down climb then an exposed rock bridge traverse and we were back on the headwall. Bryce finished up the last pitches; a stout chimney, the crux slab, then the thank god ledge to traverse us into the sun and onto the scree that brings you to the summit. Perhaps having seen my hungry eyes earlier, Mike offered up another one of his sandwiches to Bryce and myself which we devoured in an instant as we bathed in the warmth of the sun. Traversing the scree towards the scramblers route, joking that we were now scree traverse experts after that route. At the scramblers trail, I split off to scramble the last thousand feet of scree to bag the summit as I'd never been atop of Mount Temple before, while Bryce and Mike started down the trail to go pick up the car.
A solitary final three hours of summiting and hiking back to the car let the whole climb sink in, mentally and physically. By the time I got back to the truck, I was almost crying in pain wishing for the trail to end, then crying in joy as the guys handed me a beer in the parking lot. “I think tomorrow’s a rest day.”