MOUNT TEMPLE, GREENWOOD-LOCKE

Posted on: June 1, 2004


Ben Firth at the top of Pitch 7 during the first winter ascent of the Greenwood-Locke (V 5.8 A2, 1200m, Greenwood-Locke, 1966) on the north face of Mount Temple. Firth and Raphael Slawinski eliminated the aid with modern mixed climbing techniques, freeing the route at 5.9 M6. [Photo] Raphael Slawinski

Long had Raphael Slawinski and I been thinking of the first winter ascent of the Greenwood-Locke Route (V 5.8 A2, 1200m, 1966) on the north face of Mount Temple. Roughly ten attempts had been made on the route over the past twenty years; this, combined with the inclement Rockies weather, gave us good reason to be prepared. We wanted to apply our sport-mixed climbing backgrounds, complemented by dry tooling experience on multi-pitch rock routes on the long-time training crag of Yamnuska, to the route. This approach would prove the key to our success.

We skied to the base of the route early on February 19, focused and highly motivated. Leaving the skis at the start of the initial couloir, we began with The Dolphin (the lower snow/icefield), which proved to be hard work, and dangerous in places. We then soloed across a rock slab traverse covered in a ten-centimeter skiff of snow, with 600 meters of exposure below, which was psychologically stimulating.

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Soon I found myself at the base of the imposing upper rock wall, with Raphael gunning for the first lead. I followed with the large pack on ascenders; this would be the case for the majority of the rest of the route. Raphael climbed quickly and efficiently, making the steep limestone and snow mushroom difficulties seem trivial.

At the end of the first day we had climbed five of the twelve difficult pitches on the route, and we lay down in the tent at a marginal bivy upon an exposed snow arete. The second day offered more of the same, and shortly before sunset we reached the northwest ridge, greeting flat ground with great delight. The contrast between the face and the backside is such that going on to the summit would have been too contrived (for us, anyway). We began the descent (via the normal Southwest Ridge Route) to Lake Annette, where we had left our skis, making another bivouac on Sentinel Pass along the way. By 1 p.m. the next day we were spying new lines from the highway, another great modern mixed alpine adventure behind us.

— Ben Firth, Canmore, Canada

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