Just as I was lamenting the fact that the gorgeous fall weather was sure to end without me taking advantage of it my email dinged with a message from the crazy Pol - Raff. He was asking me if I would be interested in scrambling up Mount Sarbach.
Yep! Very interested!
Raff picked me up at 04:45 at my house and 3 hours later we were at the trailhead. There was some haze in the air but the weather was perfect - calm and sunny. The snow from a few weeks ago was melted off all but some high, northern aspects and we decided to leave crampons and ice axes in the truck.
The trail up to Sarbach Lookout is quite long, but you do gain almost 500 meters of elevation. In just over an hour we were at the lookout, wondering why it's called a 'lookout' since you really can't see much from the shelter of trees! :-) Another 10 minutes up the ridge to the north and the views are stunning...
Operating on 4 hours of sleep, I thought I'd feel more tired than I did. We made good time up the slope behind the lookout. I would recommend taking the treed part up and the scree part down.
Soon we were at the notches. The first notch is almost completely bypassed with one 4 foot downclimb to get into the notch. The terrain back up to the ridge after the first notch is steep and loose. The second notch looked pretty easy to me. I like notches and chimneys because you can stem down them. The rock was fairly solid in the second notch (still have to be VERY careful before putting full weight on anything though!) and the only exposed bit was right near the bottom.
After the notches there is a lot of height gain and terrain left. The weather was perfect and the haze from earlier was disappearing so we didn't care. With amazing views and very little wind the rest of the ascent was downright pleasurable - quickly elevating Sarbach into my "top 10". The best part of this scramble is that you can stick to the ridges on the way up where the rock is reasonably solid and on the way down you can take short scree runs. I found the blocky terrain a real treat after doing some scree bashes lately (Storm, Bogart).
Honestly, I think that the crux on this trip is now the second notch - even though Kane says the terrain gets harder than this. I couldn't believe I was on the summit simply because I didn't find the exposed traverse (last 15m) very loose or very hard at all. Sure, you don't want to slip but if the rock is dry you will not have any issues there. Reading the summit register was cool - it's 41 years old! A lot of the signees were on their way to Kaufmann Peaks, which made Raff and I want to keep going! After 30 minutes on the summit, enjoying the incredible panorama we reluctantly started down (we both wanted to be back in Calgary on time).
9 hours after leaving the car we were back. Sarbach is one of the 'easier' difficult scrambles IMHO. If you've done things like Coleman or Stephen you will have no issues on Sarbach. Highly recommended but make sure there's no fires burning at the nearby David Thompson country or you will be disappointed with the views. All the summit register entries for 2009 (3 besides ours) mentioned that they didn't have views due to the smoke.
Mount Sarbach shows up over the Mistaya River as we begin the long trek to the lookout. You can actually spot a lot of the route from here, basically following the skyline ridge all the way up to the false summit seen here. Then traverse over to the true summit.
Yep! This is the view from the lookout... Maybe they mean "lookout for falling trees" or something...
The terrain looks pretty steep and intimidating some times but isn't bad once you're on it. This is just before the two notches. If you don't like this stuff then you should not continue.
Raff comes up to the first notch. Mount Wilson on the left and Mount Cline is the tall one just right of center. You can also see the still smoldering fires in the distance.
Amazing views to the Lyell Icefields and the Lyells. Glacier Lake is very calm this morning.
Looking across the first notch at the remaining route. It's much further than it looks...
Raff comes out of the second notch. The bottom part is a wee bit exposed and you should carefully test all holds before committing to any moves - but that's standard in the Rockies right?!
The hiking on the shoulder and upper plateau was awesome in the calm, warm, clear morning air. The route follows the obvious skyline ridge.
Raff comes up onto the plateau behind me. Mount Cline is the big one.
After gaining the false summit (I actually bypassed it on an obvious trail) you look ahead to the true summit.
Looking towards Mount Chephren, White Pyramid, Howse Peak and Epaulette Mountain from near the summit of Mount Sarbach.
The view towards the Lyells and Columbia Icefields is excellent from Sarbach.
Raff negotiates the final 15m to the summit of Mount Sarbach:
The Freshfields, including Mount Mummery.
Freshfields again, including Mount Freshfield.
Looking down highway 93, Waterfowl Lakes in the valley.
Great view of Mount Forbes and Mount Outram in the foreground.
The Lyells and Mount Columbia.
Mount Columbia and some other Icefields peaks show up over Sullivan Peak and Mount Erasmus.
The view towards Recondite.
OLD summit register! Surprisingly few people ascend this prominent and relatively 'easy' peak. I'll probably be back on a high level traverse to Kaufman Peaks some day.
Summit panorama (click to view full size):
Apparently the register moves between summits once in a while... ;-)
Raff renamed the peak to "Mount Starbucks", so I appropriately drank out of a Starbucks cup at the summit! :-)
One more view towards Kaufman Peaks.
The register gets a new wrap courtesy of the crazy Pol.
Raff descends the upper ridge on Sarbach.
A cool traverse below the upper ridge:
Some cool gaps in the upper ridge:
Some exposure on the ridge! You don't notice it till you turn around and spot the crazy Pol downclimbing it! :-)
Looking north up #93 towards Cirrus and Coleman:
Mount Cline's (and all peaks around this area) views have been ruined all summer by the forest firest burning in the David Thompson country.
Mount Murchison is high on my list now. Beautiful looking peak.
Interesting ridge rock patterns with Murchison in the background.
Downclimbing the ridge before the second gap: