Free Drop Off to the Bow Valley and Calgary
Riding the Dolphin - A Trip Report
By Kieran Crimeen, locally (famously?) known as @shittymountaineer
When I get gripped I don’t take photos. Don’t expect many pics from this one.
March 9th 2021
I first heard about this one when I was a fresh-faced and weak-lunged transplant from the flat lands. I had an idea that maybe the Greenwood-Locke or Jones or whatever could be a fun climb, but then I experienced Rockies choss and shut that idea down pretty fast.
A few years later I had my eye on the Dolphin. This has been a weird winter in the Rockies, or the east Selkirks as a friend calls it. Things that aren’t really ever in are in, and vice versa. The Dolphin had been in earlier in the winter and then went out, but now it was in again and I honed my edges and mustered the lads to go and poke it. Joel and Chris are as good as it gets if you’re looking for someone to set the bootpack so they were wrangled and we headed up in the dark.
Not looking too enticing
A few weeks later, I think we’re good to go
I’ve gotten pretty good at the Lake Annette approach over the years, although my success rate on the north face of Temple must be below five percent. This time, I was determined to push things a little harder. We followed the access couloir as shown in Ruari’s picture, a steep twisting shot interspersed with short rock steps and snice bulges. The sound of our crampons skidding across rock bounced around the amphitheater, keeping things atmospheric.
Whoo boy, off we go. Seracs just glowing in the early morning light.
Chris was in fine form and set the entire bootpack to the point where the access couloir meets the Dolphin proper. The ‘head’ of the Dolphin seems to be less of a couloir and more of a connecting series of snowfields however the snow felt good so we continued upwards. We eventually came to find a small slab that had slid on the glacial ice and we pulled the plug around level with the beak.
Joel seemed concerned by something
Turns out he was just sleepy. This guy was feeling cool as a cuke.
A quick, tenuous transition and Chris was off, carefully turning on the firm bed surface and trying to make the most of the softer snow on the walls. He skied a long pitch and then Joel dropped in, leaving me alone with the echoes of skis scraping ice and the deafening silence of the seracs looming above. My neck creaked as I craned to look at them and I imagined it was the ice. Almost all of our ascent had been protected from these monsters and it was nerve wracking to stand under them. We had chosen a very cold day however sometimes you never know.
Being the only photog on a trip lets me cede first turns to everyone else. This is a good thing, especially when you’re nervous.
Joel making it look easy. Which it probably was for him.
My turn came and I set off with gusto, immediately reigning it in after hooking my tails under some punchy slab. I carefully picked my way down through the numerous chokes to the guys and we continued leapfrogging down to the ‘tail’. This was the only part of the line we hadn’t had eyes on this year, and we weren’t too sure if it was the right spot or if it was filled. In the interest of safety we sent Chris first. Tense silence, some curses and then a muffled whoop let us know that it was good. Joel headed down and I was once more left under the looming seracs, which were somehow bigger now that I was further down.
The final twisting segment of the Dolphin was steep, tight, and kind of bare. Negotiating the final rock step I tried to open it up in the fan and smashed into a chunk of serac just buried by some windblown snow. We skied what can only be described as a minefield of blue ice to the moraines.
Sharks lurking just beneath the surface
The north face of Temple deserves its reputation as a serious place and the Dolphin is no joke. It was everything I thought it would be and more besides; airy, steep and just phenomenal. I think it’s the prince of the north face lines, although I haven’t tried the Sphinx yet.