MT. TEMPLE, ORVIG-ROBINSON

Posted on: September 1, 2004


I picked Valeriy Babanov up at 4 a.m on March 13. Valeriy had just moved to Calgary from Russia; we had met the previous weekend. Though he had never seen the north face of Mt. Temple, he had quickly agreed to join me on the first winter ascent of the Orvig-Robinson (V 5.9 A2, 1200m, 1988). By 10 a.m. we were stashing our skis below the Sphinx (north) Face. A short quartzite band yielded quickly, and soon we were slogging up the snowfields that make up the bulk of the route. Hour after hour went by, yet the crumbling yellow bastions guarding the top of the Sphinx Face did not seem to be getting any closer.

Finally, sometime after 3 p.m., we were anchored at the base of the crux chimney. Valeriy, seemingly unfazed by this being his first climb in the Rockies, racked up for the lead. As he fought up the chimney, a week of late nights preparing lectures and grading papers caught up with me, and I struggled to stay awake. I woke up soon enough as I followed the pitch; rock and protection were better than anticipated, but the climbing was steep and demanded attention. From the belay I grabbed the rack, stepped over Valeriy and, crampons scratching on the smooth limestone, started squirming upward. A few meters up I hooked what looked to be some frozen blocks, but as I weighted them they yielded; I could only watch helplessly as they crashed down the chimney.

Valeriy doubled over in pain upon impact, but after a minute he straightened and indicated I could continue. Drytooling over the chockstones proved easier than anticipated (M6), and soon I was cruising up the lower-angle, but loose, gully above. By the time I found a solid belay in the shattered tile it was almost dark. Valeriy came up the pitch on Tiblocs, manhandling the pack I had left halfway up the chimney. Scratching a small platform out of frozen scree, we settled down to Ichiban and tea.

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A blast of snow on my face woke me up in the morning. Clouds shrouded most of the neighboring peaks, and a fierce wind drove powder snow across the face. Forgoing breakfast, we packed up and traversed a ropelength across the ledge to the base of the exit gully. One long pitch later we were sitting astride the crest of the east ridge. The plume of snow blowing off the upper ridge convinced us to give the summit a miss. After an attempt to find the descent couloir on the south side, we rappelled the route, reaching the bottom without incident.

—Raphael Slawinski, Calgary, Alberta, Canada



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