Team Defies Massive Icefall Threat to Give the ‘Eiger of the Rockies’ a New Ice Climb

Climbing
rockies ice climb
The north face of Mount Temple. The serac is evident; it trends up and right, directly below the summit.

It’s early ice climbing season in the Canadian Rockies, with storms depositing new ice in the higher parts of the range. Last week, two climbers picked an enticing but dangerous cherry, forging a 10-pitch ice and mixed route on the North Face of 3,544m Mount Temple — directly under a vast overhanging serac.

rockies ice climb

‘Stringing up the Lights’ topo.

Chris Petrauskas and Taylor Sullivan made the first ascent of Stringing up the Lights, the first new route on this “Eiger of the Rockies” since 2008. It’s not for the faint of heart. Though the difficulty is relatively moderate at WI4+, M3+, climbers also face scattered runouts and significant hazards from ice and rockfall.

A serac is defined by its formation; the columns or pinnacles of ice form along crevasse lines. The danger is obvious: they can collapse with little or no warning.

Factor in that possibility, plus an associated avalanche risk, and the new route adds up to what sounds like a harrowing outing. Sullivan’s account, imparted via Instagram, is worth a read.

The line is blatant. Viewed from a distance, it slices down the headwall on the climber’s left, vivid as a scar. Its striking appearance led Petrauskas and Sullivan to wonder whether their ascent was the line’s first. Multiple local sources eventually confirmed that a similar line had been climbed during the summer, but Stringing up the Lights is a bona fide new alpine ice route.

Icarus Buttress (IV+ 5.11-), by Eamonn Walsh and Raphael Slawinski, was the North Face’s previous newest route.

Petrauskas pointed to the possibility that serac activity on the Mount Temple ridgeline facilitated the ice line relatively recently. The stunning feature yawns steeply over the mountain’s North Face, and its character changes a lot — especially over the summer when huge segments commonly calve off.

Are you interested in finding a new personal definition of Stringing up the Lights this winter? Check out the team’s beta, below, and bring a helmet.

Mount Temple ‘Stringing Up the Lights’ beta, by the FA team

Pitch one: From the upper left corner of the Dolphin snowfield, climb through a deceptively steep band of rock (M3+) to another smaller snowfield.
Pitch two: Head for the striking, beautiful, ice/mixed gully system, which climbs the full length of the headwall by stepping right and up (M3).
Pitch three to five: Climb three pitches of thin icefall (AI3) and sparsely protected mixed ground (M3, R) to reach a small snowfield beneath a steep, long, narrow gully of ice.
Pitch six: Climb the narrow gully of ice (crux) in two short or one long pitch. The pitch steepens and narrows higher up. Luckily, the ice here is much thicker for protection, and you can stem out across the rock chimney in some wild positions (WI4+).
Pitch seven: Traverse right into the next icefall system, climbing up a cool, left-facing, steepening corner, with tools in ice smears, rock gear in the corner crack and front points stemmed out left onto the rock slab (M3+). Belay beneath a steep step of thick water ice.
Pitch eight: Climb the steep headwall of ice (WI4) before skirting left beneath a wall of rock.
Pitch nine: Climb through final ice smears into a low angled alleyway of ice flanked by seracs (WI2).
Pitch 10: Work up and left and exit onto the summit slope with a final steep move through a serac (WI2).

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About the Author

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents' evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.

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