Distance: 8.5 km
Elevation gain: 950 m View map Download GPS track
A dump of snow this past week that blanketed the Rockies from Banff to Waterton had Sandra and I head north to the Lake Louise area again this weekend. Our plan was to hike up Little Temple, a small peak surrounded by larch trees that has been on my list for years and was recently published in the new edition of Andrew Nugara’s scrambling guide
. A trip report from the previous weekend by Sonny Bou
also suggested the larches would be in their prime by now.
The crux of this trip would be gaining access to the Moraine Lake road. The parking lot at the lake fills up around 7 am each day and the road is closed to vehicular traffic after that. We hoped that by leaving the city at 5:15 we’d arrive before it closed, but if not we had plenty of backup options just across the road at Skoki.
Things didn’t look good as we approached the well-fortified Moraine Lake road at around 7:30. Signs, barricades, and two guards were turning cars away and traffic was backed up as each car stopped to ask what was going on. I, however, knew the secret code word, and upon uttering it to the guard he promptly moved the cones aside and let us pass, presumably to the bewilderment of those waiting behind us who were subsequently turned away.
A short and uncharacteristically peaceful drive along the road then brought us to the gravel pullout where Temple Creek crosses under the road. After gearing up and crossing the road we picked up a good trail on the east side of the creek and followed it upstream. It was quite slippery in the cool of the morning and moderate deadfall made travel slow, but other than that travel was easy and the creek was very beautiful. We soon reached an official trail, crossed it, and picked up the trail heading upstream on the west bank of Temple Creek. A kilometer or so later the ascent eased (it had never been steep) and we were treated to our first spectacular view of Mount Temple and the larch meadows near Temple Lake.
We easily made our way to the head of the lake, then started the steep, but easy, ascent of Little Temple. I could see another couple in front of us, and I’d been joking with Sandra that it was probably fellow scrambler Alison Sekera
, and when we caught up to them a bit below the summit of Little Temple my suspicions were confirmed – it was indeed Alison and her boyfriend Heath. Their suspicions were also confirmed, for as Sandra and I had ascended they’d recognized us by our trademark Tilley hats!
After some quick introductions we hiked together over frosty rubble to the summit of Little Temple. While it had been sunny for most of the ascent, clouds formed over all the major peaks in the next 20 minutes, and shortly after arriving at the summit the entire sky was filled with low cloud! We chatted a bit and ate a quick lunch in the cold, then headed down to explore a larch forest between the peak and Annette Lake.
As we wandered slowly around the forest the skies cleared and the sun lit up the brilliantly yellow larches, turning a good trip into a spectacular one! I just love this time of year when there is actually a bit of color in the mountains. Eventually we wandered back to the base of Little Temple and retraced our steps back down to the lake. It was in full sun now, and the reflection of the larches in the water was an added bonus to an already scenic trip. A quick hike back to the car then brought our day to an early end, which was just what we needed for a Sunday hike.
It was great to meet Alison and her boyfriend too; we’ll no doubt get out hiking together sometime in the future. It was also remarkable that on perhaps the busiest weekend of the year in the Lake Louise and Moraine Lake areas, we found a hike where we met only two other fellow scramblers – not a tourist, touron, hiking club herd, or anyone else in sight!