American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Stranded, Off Route, Exceeding Abilities, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Temple

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1993

STRANDED, OFF ROUTE, EXCEEDING ABILITIES Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Temple

On August 6, 1992, Joe P. and Martin L. climbed the east ridge of Mount Temple (3544 meters) but stalled at 2000 when they reached the Black Towers, unsure if they were on route. They bivvied overnight and tried to continue in the morning. After climbing part way up a gully, they found they could not make any more headway because of bad weather and loose rock, and could not climb down from their position either. With darkness approaching, they tried to send an SOS signal by headlamp to the lodge at Moraine Lake. Their signal was seen and the Banff Park Warden Service was contacted. A search was initiated at first light on August 8, and the pair were located in the Black Towers around 3200 meters. They were rescued by helicopter. (Source: Banff National Park Warden Service)


These climbers were experienced, but had route-finding problems and were uncomfortable with the type of rock they encountered. Acquiring further information on the climb before attempting it may have kept them from getting off route. The Black Towers have often been climbed straight on, so they are not necessarily ‘off route,’ except to someone who has heard about bypassing them and intends to do so; it’s doubtful that they present climbing as difficult as the Big Step lower on the mountain, so anyone who gets over that should have no trouble negotiating the towers. However, by the time most climbers reach them, they feel the worthwhile part of the climb is behind and want only to get off it, walk to the summit, and then get off the mountain. The Black Towers therefore represents an ominous and unwelcome complication, best bypassed through gullies to the left. (Source: Orvel Miskiw)

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