Surely one of my favourite mountain adventures to date. You know those hikes that take a ton of hours and energy out of your day and in the end, weren’t worth it? Mount Temple isn’t one of them! I’m so glad we finally checked this behemoth peak off the summit bucket list. You never know how much time you have left and I don’t want to look back on my life with regrets. It’s easy to put things off and file them away under “one day”. We create our own reality and our lives are a reflection of what we think, believe and do. I’m not going to sit back and let myself be a victim of life happening ‘to’ me. I choose to spend my free time doing shit I love. I mean, if you’re not having fun, then what’s the point? One of my favourite Abraham Hicks quotes says,
“You’re never satisfied. That’s what life is; it’s just this ongoing, never-ending vacation adventure”
I’ve been mesmerized by Temple for years – it’s sheer enormity and ice capped peak that never melts. There’s something magical about that beast of a mountain that draws many visitors to it. Jutting 11,624 feet into the sky, it’s the sixth highest peak in Alberta and the most accessible 11,000+ foot scramble in the Rockies.
Our day began at 4:40am. We prepped our gear and snacks the night before so all we had to do was get up and go! Inside our packs, we had:
-Touque, gloves, hand warmers
-First aid kit (emergency heat blanket, gauze, bandages, safety pins, antiseptic gel, tweezers)
-Sunscreen, electrolyte tablets
-2L of water (each)
-Lunches (sandwiches, veggies, fruit) + snacks (granola bars, protein bars, chocolate)
-Summit beers (our little tradition)
The trek to Temple begins at Moraine Lake and you have to be there early to find parking and hopefully get ahead of the crowds. We thought a 7am start time would put us way ahead of everyone else, but once we reached Sentinel Pass, there were at least 30-40 people already up there! They must have started at 5am.
Hiking with a large group of people is comforting – as you can figure out the route together BUT it can also be confusing. *Don’t follow people, follow the trail markers and cairns*
Temple has a reputation as being dangerous, but it’s not the mountain itself that’s sketchy, it’s the volume of people kicking rocks down from cliff edges. Someone set a bowling ball sized rock loose onto a scree slope which could’ve been fatal for someone who wasn’t on course or wearing a helmet. *You absolutely need a climbing helmet for this* Almost everyone I encountered was wearing one. There were a handful of people who weren’t and I thought they were idiots.
I often witness hikers who are so stupidly unprepared (in running shoes, no jacket, no water, nothing!) but almost everyone had their shit together this day. It restored my faith in humanity. Earlier that morning, we observed a family leading their kids up to a freakin’ bear on the side of the road. Not only were they putting their kids lives in danger, they just left their mini van in the middle of the road and walked away! Unbelievable.
We blared the horn and told them to get back into their car. We also told them they were god damn idiots – because they needed to know! Later on, we witnessed them stealing a handicap parking stall – as Moraine Lake parking lot was full. Makes sense.
Jo and Nick, ruining people’s Banff vacations since 2017! *praise hands* I’m still so mad about that family and their complete disregard for everything and everyone around them. I imagine they spent the rest of their Banff vacation making illegal bonfires (despite the fire ban) and dangling their children over balconies like Michael Jackson – to entice the wildlife. Sigh.
There are a couple rockband sections that require a few feet of free climbing, but there’s plenty of helping hands around to guide you up and down. The rock bands tend to be pretty congested and that’s where rocks start flying. Mostly pebbles, but as long as you stay on the route, you’ll be fine. Again, I think people run into trouble when they attempt short cuts.
At the end of the day, I noticed a large group of people taking a short cut down a scree slope. Sure, you might save yourself an hour, but is it really worth it?
This was one of the highlights of the day. I was taking in the views of Larch Valley to my left and Paradise Valley to my right. Incredible, world class views in every direction. I took a few moments to breathe it all in express a quick gratitude prayer for getting to experience days like this. I love this, thank you, more of this.
I was worried Temple might be too advanced or technical for me, but I didn’t find it confusing at all. It’s well marked with cairns and yellow ribbons. Anytime we were unsure, we’d pause and look for a marker before continuing on. Slow, steady, calculated movement. As the summit came into view, the temperature began to freefall, but I was still sweating buckets. We couldn’t have asked for a better day. The sky was almost clear (except for this weird cloud hovering above the summit) and there was no wind or bugs!
I found this to be the most challenging part of the hike. It wasn’t overly steep, but by this point, you’re so high up that your body feels like lead. I’d take ten steps and rest. Ten more steps, rest. I felt it in my legs more than anything. Nick said he felt the same way. He’d count out five steps at a time and pause.
Eventually, you reach a ridgeline where you’re rewarded with views of Moraine Lake, Consolation lakes and layers of mountains as far as the eye can see.
It’s funny, because once you’re up there, you’re like, “That wasn’t nearly as bad as I anticipated!” Everyone we chatted with agreed it’s absolutely worth the grind (and altitude sickness!)
I didn’t realize it at the time, but in hindsight, I’m pretty sure I was dealing with minor altitude sickness. Somewhere along the ascent, I developed a headache that turned into a real throbber at the top. Normally I’m starving by the time I reach a summit, but I had zero appetite all day. Instead, I was becoming bloated (and so gassy! Like the most painful gas I’ve ever had) I figured my breakfast wasn’t sitting right or I’d been poisoned with glutens or something. 😉 I made myself take a few bites of Nick’s sandwich, then managed to get an RX bar and chocolate down later on.
By the time we reached Sentinel Pass, I’d reached that inevitable crankiness you get with long treks. My legs were tired, my head hurt and I desperately wanted to go home and take my dirty clothes off. We ran through Larch Valley back to Moraine where we collapsed at the lakeshore for a few minutes. When we got home, I started to get a little hankering for food and the only thing that sounded good was sourdough toast and eggs. Then it was off to bed.
The next morning, I felt like I had the flu or a bad hangover! I spent the majority of Monday curled up in bed with zero energy, nausea and heart palpitations. Getting up to go to the bathroom or put clothes on was exhausting. I had to sit down to shower! I think I was in such an energy deficit that my body struggled to complete the most basic task. 100% worth it.
Other than meeting up with friends for lunch at Moxies (I won an Instagram contest through them!) I didn’t leave my bed. I literally stayed there all day sipping electrolyte water, kombucha, chicken broth and green smoothies. I watched four episodes of Real Housewives of OC, wrote this blog post and had a salt bath. Nice little recovery day. 🙂
Over to you:
What’s the biggest hike you’ve done? Have you ever dealt with altitude sickness?