Colin Haley and Rob Smith are no strangers to the Canadian Rockies. During the last week of March, they climbed the icefield on the Sphinx Face on Mount Temple and Colin Haley skied down. Mount Temple has been called the Eiger of the Rockies because of their similar size, terrain and history. One main difference is Mount Temple offers a number of skiable lines on its north face.
The classic is the Aemmer Couloir near the East Ridge, which is skied a number of times each season. Other popular ski lines are the Dolphin and Cobra Couloir.
In 2013, Ruari Macfarlane made seven descents on the north side of Mount Temple including the Sphinx Face, from about 50 metres below its top, using a splitboard. Instead of climbing the M5 pitch, Macfarlane found an access couloir that avoided pitching out and rappelling the rock band.
On March 25, Haley and Smith attempted to climb the Sphinx Face in its entirety. The Sphinx Face was first climbed by Ward Robinson and Rob Orvig in 1988 and goes at V 5.9 A2. The first winter ascent was by Raphael Slawinski and Valery Babanov and it was free-soloed by Cian Brinker in under three hours in 2011. Brinker said his line was only about 5.9 with no A2. Barry Blanchard attempted the face five times and never made it through the upper headwall. Read Blanchard’s story of his last attempt.
The short, initial quartzite band is followed by a large glacier/snow field that leads to the steeper climbing. The crux is the upper rotten rock band. A storm forced Haley and Smith to head down but they returned on Thursday and Haley skied the line. There’s no saying how many people have skied the face. We just got word that Jeff Relph skied it in the early 2000s.
Haley said, “On Wednesday Rob Smith and I went to try the Sphinx Face on the north side of Mt. Temple. We were turned back by stormy weather, but we were amazed by all the stable powder that blanketed the icefields (which go up to the base of the headwall, about 70 per cent of the way up the face). Yesterday we returned with skis, but were dismayed to find all the powder scoured off by the wind. Having brought my skis so far I decided to ski it anyways (from the base of the headwall). It was firm, and not the glorious run that it would’ve been on Wednesday, but it was always easy to get my edges in, and still a fun time.”