Sun Ribbon Arete on Temple Crag

Exposure for days

The Sierra had been calling me since my first foray into it with Dale about a year ago.  I made the trek down to Mammoth Lakes on Friday with a flight through LA.  Dale grabbed me at the airport and we immediately headed into the village to catch up over a beer and discuss climbing plans.

The selected plan was to car-to-car the Sun Ribbon Arete on Temple Crag and attempt to fire the Temple-Galey-Sill traverse if time permitted.  We sorted gear in Dale's living room and got ready to go light and fast before turning in at 11pm.

2am came very soon.  We piled into the car with our gear, busted out to the trailhead, and started hiking by 4am.  The sun was just beginning to rise as we made it to the lake below Temple Crag.  We stopped here to have some breakfast before finishing the approach across scree and a steep but short snowfield.  In the interest of going light and fast, we left crampons and boots at home.  I had only brought running shoes, so navigating the steep, frozen snow in my Nike Free shoes was a bit tricky.  Copious ice axe use ensued.

The snowfield brought us to some 4th class scrambling up to the first pitch.  We put on the harnesses at about 7am, roped up, and Dale fired the 5.7 dihedral in the sunshine.  We quickly transitioned to simul-climbing for the following low-5th class pitches and made it to a sweet knife-edge and optional tyrolean traverse.  Given our desire to try and fire the full Temple-Galey-Sill traverse, we opted for the faster short rappel and climb back to the knife edge.  More simul-climbing brought us to another ridge, another rap, and the 5.10a crux up a mildly overhanging crack, followed by a super-exposed 5.9 face.

Much of the climbing wasn't terribly difficult, but there were always a few thought-provoking moves thrown in and enough loose rock that you had to keep your wits about you and not grab the wrong holds.  We eventually made it final 4th class scramble to the summit ridge at about 4:30pm and were on the summit by 5pm.  It was clear that we didn't have time to continue along the traverse to Galey, but we were pretty psyched to have successfully finished the climb.  Summit shots ensued before a bout of altitude sickness had me throwing up on the ridge.  We quickly started the descent.

Temple Crag in the early-morning light

Altitude sickness feels like a nasty hangover, complete with poor balance, so the scree-sliding descent to the single rap was a bit spicy for me.  No close calls, but quite a few slips.  The rap brought us to the pass just above a steep snow field.  We quickly decided that things would be much faster glissading, so I tested out my new pants with a kevlar-reinforced butt and slid my way to glory down big snow cups, dodging rocks along the way.

Back at the lakes, we ran into a group of people eating dinner who insisted on feeding us in exchange for stories from our adventure.  They were incredibly nice and eventually told us that we should get on our way so as not to finish our hike too late.  We should have known, but the drive home after the hike out was the hardest part.

Dale was hurting behind the wheel and pulled off for a 15-minute break near Bishop.  The snooze button was hit a few times and before we knew it, we'd been napping for an hour.  It was well after midnight at this point, so we limped our way back to Dale's place and crashed hard.  What a day!  About 15 miles of hiking and a vertical mile of elevation gain/loss.