I met up with Taylor and John at our Bishop office to do a gear check and packing session prior to our weekend journey to Temple Crag. Both Taylor and John have climbed with SMG for some time and were well prepared for a big adventure. Taylor and Howie planned to climb Darkstar while John and I would be on the stunning Sun Ribbon Arête. Darkstar is rated Grade V 5.10b and Sun Ribbon is a Grade IV 5.10a. After a quick lunch in Bishop we swung by Howie’s house in Big Pine and then cruised up to the trailhead at the North Fork of Big Pine creek. The approach to Temple Crag involves classic variable Eastern Sierra terrain. We started at the Glacier Lodge and quickly gained elevation crossing some footbridges and making our way up the dessert trial. After about an hour we rounded a corner and were greeted by the North Fork of Big Pine creek falling down the valley in several cascades and waterfalls.
Just above the dry dessert gave way to an amazing high alpine meadow. The new terrain was replete with Quaking aspens, alpine flowers, meandering creeks, and grassy expanses. The contrast is so striking that is never gets old. All of us have spent time in the area and for me I can’t imagine getting to a point where I take this area for granted. After the meadows we passed a forest service cabin on our way to our first views of Temple crag.
As you near 1st Lake you come around a bend and are slapped with an incredible view of the lake and Temple Crag in the background. That time of day the light pulls the arêtes out form the crag and allows great views of the routes.
It didn’t take any time from there to get to camp at 3rd lake. We set up camp, had a great dinner and went to bed early to get some rest for a big day. We got a dark start on our climb day and John and I said goodbye to Taylor and Howie at 5am.
They started for Darkstar
and we went up to the Sun Ribbon arête. Our climb started off with some easy talus and scree climbing to the bottom of a steep snowfield. John and I got our crampons and ice axes out and headed up the frozen neve. The snow brought us to a big ledge traverse that lead to the bottom of the first pitch.
With 20 pitches of climbing ahead of us we wasted no time diving in. The sun was just warming us as we started up the first pitch. After an remarkable morning of arête climbing
we found ourselves staring at the Tyrolean Traverse pitch.
After about 8 tries we were able to catch one of the flakes on the other side of the 20’ gap. Many more marvelous pitches let to the summit ridge.
Near the ridge we were able to see Howie and Taylor on Darkstar to our North. You really can gain perspective when you can see climbers mixed in with the big terrain. I thought about taking a picture of them but reconsidered as it would have been a classic where’s Waldo. John and I went for the summit of Temple
and then descended to Contact Pass. We could see Howie and Taylor making their way down and we descended back to the base of the route. After connecting with Howie and Taylor on the descent to camp we traded stories from our climbs and finished our 15-hour day with a big dinner and a well-deserved rest. All in all this was a mind-blowing adventure for all of us.
Big thanks to Talyor and John for being well prepared and trained for such a big day. -Neil