Peak Climbed: Grand Sentinel (8,150')

Route: South Face

Difficulty: 5.8

Location: Banff National Park, Canada

Trailhead: Moraine Lake

Mileage & Gain: 8 mi & 3,000 ft

Date Climbed: August 13, 2017

Not surprisingly, on our first day in Canada we were presented with a forecast calling for 70% chance of rain. Optimistic and anxious to try to still have a productive day, we set our sights on the shortest and least committing peak on our most wanted list: Grand Sentinel. This narrow, 350-ish foot high decaying quartzite spire, its shape rather reminiscent of a desert tower, resides near Sentinel Pass and well known Mount Temple in Banff National Park. There are two popular routes to the top. The South Face is a four pitch 5.8 trad climb that is fully equipped with belay/rappel stations and can be easily descended with a single rope. Cardiac Arete is a steep, four pitch 5.10d sport route also offering reasonably easy escape.

As luck would have it, the usual grizzly bear restriction on the Larch Valley/Sentinel Pass Trail that we'd read so much about was not in effect! Signs indicated that traveling with a group of 4 or more was recommended, but not required by law. We had feared that we’d have to wait for others to share the approach and get stuck with a slow party, and were all too happy to embark on our own, unencumbered by strangers (but equipped with bear spray).

Heavy smoke from nearby wildfires cloaked the magnificent landscape in a dull haze, its odor constant and irritating. We arrived at the base of the spire to find a party planning to climb Cardiac Arete. Prepared for and hoping to do both, it made sense for us to hop on the trad line first.

Not accustomed to the chossiness of the Canadian Rockies, this "classic on good rock" felt a bit more serious than I was expecting. The climbing is steep, fun, and easy. But the rock quailty keeps you on your toes! Unfortunately it was raining by the time we climbed the final pitch and there would be no Cardiac Arete for us afterwards. Instead we made a half assed attempt at nearby Mount Temple, bailing when we got fed up with the rain and wind.

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