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John Price recaps his climb of Greenwood-Locke Route and shares stunning pictures of the ascent.
Rising to a height of 3954 meters, the summit of Mount Temple is one of the most impressive mountains that lies within Banff National Park. Offering an easy scramble up its southwest ridge or hard, technical alpine rock routes on its eastern ridge and steep north face, Mount Temple attracts many different types of people seeking adventure.
After climbing the East Ridge (listed as one of the fifty classics of North America), and the two major North Face routes, the Greenwood/Locke and the Greenwood/Jones routes, I reflected on the lessons this mountain has taught me and the impact climbing these routes has had on my personal journey in alpinism.
Years earlier, my good friend and climbing partner Jasmin Fauteux and I climbed the Greenwood/Jones route, which ascends a prominent quartzite buttress on the left side of the face. Despite being quite nervous, everything went well and we ended up climbing this route in good style. We summited at 2:30 pm and ended up completing the route in a respectable time of 14 hours car to car. We didn’t break any records but were quite fast compared to other parties we had talked to and reports we had read. That day we knew we had to go back for the Greenwood/Locke route when we had the chance.
The Greenwood/Locke is one of the more serious routes that Mount Temple boasts. Like the Jones route, it’s most commonly climbed in spring or fall, when the face is mostly clear of snow but when the freezing levels are still low enough to help mitigate natural rock fall events.
We approached the Greenwood/Locke much like we did the Jones, alpine style. We took minimal gear, and our only non-essential gear was a small bivy tarp (in case we got stuck on the face in bad weather), a small first aid kit, and an emergency beacon. Aside from that we carried boots, crampons, one axe each, head lamps, power bars, 2 litres of water each, a light down jacket, and single rack & rope. We decided on a single rope setup rather than two half ropes. We would climb much faster with one rope, and we knew, regardless of our rope systems, retreating from the face up high had to be avoided at all costs.
Being equally driven as a photographer as a climber, I decided I was fit and strong enough to carry my Full Frame DSLR (Canon 6D + 17-40mm) up the route so I could document our ascent. Shooting with intention on a route like that requires you to climb fast and shoot even faster. You don’t have the security on a face like that to spend unnecessary time, so I had to be disciplined when I pulled out the camera and decided what shots to capture.
Upon nearing the main limestone headwall that guards the exit ramp on the face I suffered an unfortunate blow to the head by natural rock fall. I’ve never actually been hit by rock badly, and this was one seriously scary incident. Hearing a faint trickle of falling rocks, I looked up to see a microwave-sized block coming for me. The reason I’m alive to type this today is because the large rock smashed on a wall before hitting me, which caused it to shatter into smaller pieces. Instead of being hit by a huge rock, I was peppered with several smaller rocks, luckily causing only superficial wounds.
My partner quickly checked me out, and we continued on. The blow was effecting my headspace, but I knew retreat was not an option. It was too dangerous to rappel a face like that. We had to continue. I brushed it aside and took off on lead.
A few hours later we were pulling over the lip on the right side of the face. We were psyched. Not only did we climb this route, we did it way faster than we expected while documenting the ascent. Per the usual, we enjoyed big hugs and elated laughter before heading home. Having both summited numerous times before, we decided to start our descent. My head was throbbing pretty badly and I was keen to find some water, which was still hours away.
The descent is very mellow technically, which allowed us to switch off our brains and descend in auto mode. After a few hours we arrived at the bustling Moraine Lake parking lot. With a bloodied face I walked through the crowds and lay down to rest while Jas hitch hiked back to our car. We figured he would have better odds at hitch hiking as I looked like I had just finished battle. I guess I had.
We ended up climbing the route in 16 hours car to car. It was definitely the most impressive climb I have ever photographed. I’m proud of the images captured, not only because they are strong images but because of the skill set required to obtain them: a synergy of my climbing & photography skills coming together to create unique images. These images tell a story I’ll remember for the rest of my days.
John Price is an avid climber and photographer. After quitting a desk job working in IT in 2009, he moved to New Zealand to study Adventure Recreation. During this course he discovered climbing and it has since become his main passion and drive in life.
Over the last three years John has been actively climbing and photographing rock, ice and alpine ascents throughout North America, including the deserts of Nevada, the Ruth Gorge in Alaska and throughout the Canadian Rockies.