Sarbach, Mount


Trip Details
Mountain Range: 
Mountain Subrange: 
Attained Summit?: 
Trip Date: 
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Summit Elevation (m): 
Summit Elevation (ft): 
Elevation Gain (m): 
Round Trip Time: 
Total Distance (km): 
Difficulty Notes: 

A fall on the crux would severely injure or kill so take necessary precautions.

Trip Report

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 - Raf. He was asking me if I would be interested in scrambling up Mount Sarbach. Yep! I would be very interested! Arrangements were hastily made.


Raf 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.


[Fall color and Epaulette (C) and Sarbach (R) from the parking area.]

[The Mistaya River Canyon is impressive.]

[Looking up the Mistaya River at Sarbach. Pretty much the whole route visible here.]


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 down climb 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.


[Breaking tree line onto the lower north ridge of Sarbach looking back at the Saskatchewan Crossing and Mount Wilson. ++]

[Yep - this is still the Rockies! Loose piles of crappy limestone await... :)]

[Looking across our approach and hwy #93 to Mount Murchison, which Raf and I also climbed together in 2013.]

[Looking over a beautiful Glacier Lake at the Lyell Icefield.]

[This is a big bloody mountain - looking ahead to the notches and the false summit far above.]

[The view west from the first notch.]

[Looking back at Raf approaching the first notch, I've already climbed out of it.]

[Looking across the second notch.]

[Looking back at Raf descending into the second notch - lots of exposure here!]

[Raf down climbs the second notch with Survey Peak in the bg.]

[Raf adds some perspective to the size of the second notch.]


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 (StormBogart).


[Continuing along the broad north ridge as it starts to curve west.]

[Looking across the Howse River to Glacier Lake. Mounts Outram and Forbes rising on the left.]

[Great view of the ridge we ascended with Wilson and Cline in the bg. ++]

[The football sized upper plateau on the ridge before the false summit.]

[Gazing back along the plateau on the ridge.]

[Some impressive drops to the Sarbach Glacier on the east face. I've often looked for a viable route up this while driving past on hwy 93...]

[Another great view back down the ridge even showing the notches.]

[A scree trail runs past a bump on the ridge - no need gaining extra height on this one!]

[A great view of the false summit and the bypass trail in the scree in this look back. ++]


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 Raf and I want to keep going! After 30 minutes on the summit, enjoying the incredible panorama we reluctantly started down.


[A ridiculous summit panorama from Chephren and White Pyramid on the right, to Murchison, Cline and Wilson at center and Survey, Amery, The Lyells, Outram and Forbes on the left. ++]

[Glacier Lake with the Lyells and their icefield at left, center and Mount Columbia and Bryce at right.]

[Raf approaches the summit ridge with Cline and Murchison behind him.]

[Another shot of Raf on the exposed summit traverse.]

[The crux is exposed and loose, but short and chunky. :)]

[Chephren, White Pyramid and Howse with Kaufmann in the fg.]

[Forbes with Outram in front and the Howse River below. Note the small tarn at left.]

[Great shot of the hanging east face glacier with Waterfowl Lakes and Chephren in the bg.]

[Zoomed in on Forbes and Outram - both still on my list!]

[The five Lyells from R to L, Christian, Walter, Ernest, Edward and Rudolph with Bryce and Arctomys (fg) at center and King Edward and Columbia on the right.]

[View over Waterfowl Lakes includes Noyes, Weed and Observation Peak.]

[Gazing into the headwaters of Howse Creek at the Conway Group and Freshfield Icefield.]

[Some local legends in the summit register!]

[Damn! We should be headed on to Kaufmann too...]

[Interestingly, the summit register has been moved around a bit over the years.]

[Vern sips a Starbucks on Sarbach. Say that 10 times quickly. ;)]

[Looking over the false summit towards Mount Cline and Lion / Lioness on Resolute Mountain.]

[The ridge continues impressively towards Kaufmann and Epaulette Peak.]


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.


[Raf gets ready to leave the summit. ++]

[Interesting terrain descending the ridge from the summit.]

[Big terrain and loose rock - typical big Rockies scrambling.]

[I still think there has to be a route up this glacier - but would it be worth it?]

[Smoldering forest fire near the approach for Wilson / Cline.]

[Back at tree line looking south down hwy #93. Murchison and Bison on the left and Chephren on the right.]

[Amery on the left, Wilson on the right looking across Forbes Creek and up hwy #93.]

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