I heard about Mount Temple when I first started hiking two years ago. The mere mention of the place sent an instant ‘zing’ in my body, and I just knew—with a deep powerful feeling—I had to find a way up there. I heard from various experienced hikers that it is “doable,” but at 3544 meters above sea level (11,627 feet) it is a very long, steep and moderately technical trek. So I set out on a training plan to get myself up there. After a year of preparing myself physically, mentally and spiritually, I finally felt ready to give it a try.
August 15th was initially going to be the first attempt. I gave myself permission to go as far I could and not be attached to a particular outcome and enjoy each step along the way. My wonderful scrambling and hiking friend Ken was on board with doing this as an attempt, assuring me there was no pressure to reach the summit. He would say “we get as far as we get, as soon as you are ready to turn back let me know and we go.”
I had heard from other spiritual friends that this whole area is a special vortex, like Sedona, and that many people have spiritual experiences in the various peaks around Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, so I was intentional with this trip, hoping to tune into the energy of the place and be open to what the mountain might teach me.
I’d love to share this adventure with you! Let me walk you up Mount Temple through my photos.
The trailhead begins at Moraine Lake Alberta, and we make a check to see when the parking lot typically fills up; we find out that we should arrive no later than 5:20. So we make a plan to arrive by 5:15 am. This means getting up at 2:15 and leaving the house by 2:30 am. Yikes! The drive up in the dark is beautiful with the full super moon getting lower and lower in the sky as we get closer to the destination.
We pull into Moraine Lake parking lot at 5:17, taking one of the very last spots. We walk over to the lake to watch the sun come up. What a beautiful sight to see.
As soon as it is light enough we go back to the car and gear up. We begin our ascent at 6:44. What a beautiful sunrise! I almost want to stay longer and enjoy it, but I know our trek is going to be somewhere between 10 – 12 hours and as Ken said: “That mountain is not going to climb itself.” So off we go, snapping one last picture of Moraine Lake at sunrise.
We begin the ascent by enjoying a beautiful and quiet walk through the forest up several switchbacks to get into Larch Valley. What a beautiful spot! I’m planning to come back in the fall to see the larches turn here.
The sun is getting higher by this point and highlighting the mountainscape we are about to enter.
Larch Valley opens up into a beautiful meadow with a 360-degree view of cathedral rock faces. It is a breathtaking spot. It felt like I have stepped onto the set of a magical adventure movie. Wildflowers, rock faces glowing with the rising sun. I am beginning to feel the ‘magic’ of the place as others have described.
This place is famous for ‘faces’ within the rock formations. It’s been called the home of Archangel Michael and an ancient dwarven fortress. Oh, how I love the creativity of the human mind. Though personally, I am not sure a space this beautiful can be expressed in words. I feel it must be understood purely through the experience.
Checking out the rock ‘faces.’ They are hard to see in the photo, but they look very impressive with the naked eye.
Temple peak on the right, the top is hidden in the clouds which may be foreshadowing of what we will find at the summit. 🙂
After taking a break in the meadow bowl we push on and up to reach Sentinel Pass. The Valley of Ten Peaks is beautiful from this vantage point.
This is the halfway point of our destination. We stop here to take in some views of the trippy rock formations on the other side of Sentinel Pass.
These ones remind me of dwarves.
I name this mountain ‘The Castle’ because of the rock formations at the top. This mountain also has a very special feel to it. I can’t stop looking at it and taking it in.
At the end of our rest break on Sentinel Pass, we put on our helmets as rockfall is a risk with hikers going on up ahead and shaking loose rock down below. We are about to get into the most interesting rock bands. Each section was a completely different colour than the last. Have you ever noticed stripes on mountains? I’ve always loved looking at them. But to walk through them is truly magical. It is like walking through different rooms in a huge mansion. I can see why this land is named the house of Archangel Michael. It does really feel like entering the home of giants.
I call this section the ‘Library of Giants’ because these rocks remind me so much of giant books.
Looking at the ‘green and purple room.’ These rocks are all bright green and brilliant violet in colour, just gorgeous.
Next section is some easy to moderate scrambling, which I usually find fun, scary and mentally challenging.
The beautiful views of the Sentinel Pass below take my mind off the scary factor.
Going from the black room to beige room, and on to the ‘stairway to heaven’ stretch. The crux is becoming visible over to the far right.
The crux is mostly a mental challenge for me. Having been to a bouldering wall days earlier I feel capable of this moderate scramble, but the mind can play tricks. It’s one thing to play on a bouldering wall with foam padding under you, but to play on a real mountain with a very steep slope of sharp rocks below, suddenly the game is very real.
(If you plan on this ascent, the crack along the middle provides your best handholds. They are very fixed and solid. Pathway up is along the crack and then over to the big steps and up to the right.)
The view of Sentinel Pass and the Valley of Ten Peaks reward me for pushing through my fear and mental challenge. I even see a cross pattern in the snow on one of the peaks.
At the next viewpoint, I find myself starting to worry about coming back down the crux. Ken reminds me that it’s probably a better idea to stay in the present moment and notice where my feet are stepping right now. He’s so zen.
I realize he’s talking about how important it is to be present to where your feet land on a mountain, to not be mindful here is dangerous. But the thought process brings me to my daily life also. Isn’t life just as serious as climbing a mountain? Shouldn’t we try to remain present as often as we can?
The next “room” is what I call the Field of Books. This whole stretch is black and gold, and the rock formations once again take the shape of large books in my mind. It makes me want to write a fantasy novel about how, on some level of reality or dimension, these were real books to real giants. What can I say, creativity and imagination are my superpowers. 🙂
This book belongs to a baby giant.
After we pass through the black and gold band we can finally see the summit! Up to this point, I have almost decided it was time to turn back. But now, having the summit in my eye line, I decide to push on. Ken’s game to keep going also, so we enter the scree field.
Do you ever feel sometimes like you are moving two steps forward one step back? That’s how walking up scree feels too. Up up slide, up up slide. Mountain treks are so much like life.
As I am slogging away at the two steps forward one step back pace, I see these rock formations just past the summit. I fantasize that they are the guardians of the mountain. I continue writing a fantasy novel in my mind, imagining them like the sphynx figures in The Never-Ending Story. What human quality would I need to embody to get past them? The answer I dream up is “love.”
The summit is now clearly in sight. It’s getting cloudy, windy and cold. But we are happy.
The guardians have let me pass, so I say a little thank you at the summit.
Summit views always remind me of the ‘overview effect;’ if you’ve never heard of this phenomenon I encourage you to give it a google. It’s what astronauts call the feeling of leaving the earth’s atmosphere and then looking back down on the planet from space. It’s a mind-altering feeling that can never truly be described in words. But it can be felt in the heart if you are willing for your perspective to shift.
Summit views looking the other way toward Moraine Lake and Consolation Lakes.
I do my little summit ritual thanking the mountain for the gifts it gave me and deciding what I’d like to give back in return. I decide that my biggest gift on this day is how a mindful and complete experience of fear isn’t a limitation, it’s an asset. It’s energizing and uplifting when you allow it to move all the way through you without fighting with it. Saying yes to what is, is my gift today. I decide to give love back to the mountain.
We find a place to layer up and have some lunch overlooking Moraine Lake. No words can describe this view.
On the way back down we find more interesting rock formations.
A dear friend asked me to make an offering to the mountain for her. I find a perfect spot under one of the rock faces.
And one last gift from the mountain to me.
Once through the knee biting descent we take a final look at Moraine Lake. It’s different now. I’m not sure if it’s because of where the sun is now, or because of how different I am now. Maybe it’s both.