Sarrail, Mount

Summit Elevation (m): 3179
Trip Date: Tuesday, September 5, 2006
Elevation Gain (m): 1780
Total Trip Distance (km): 24
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2/3 – you fall, you sprain or break something
Difficulty Notes: No major difficulties if scrambling the Kane route in dry conditions. This is a long day trip.
Technical Rating: SC5; YDS (3rd)
GPS Track: Download
Map: Google Maps

If you’re doing Sarrail as a day trip from the Upper Kananaskis Parking lot, you are in for a fairly long day. The hiking and scrambling are fairly easy though, so it’s doable for fit and fast parties. We did this trip on our way into the Aster Lake area for a few days of peak bagging the Kane peaks. We arrived at the Upper Kananaskis Lake parking lot early in the morning on a gorgeous, clear day on September 5 2006. After struggling into our heavy backpacks, we proceeded around the first few kilometers of Upper Kananaskis Lake before cutting off on a ‘hidden’ trail towards Hidden Lake.  

Mount Sarrail Route Map

You may have a tough time finding the trail to Hidden Lake but look carefully at the map and the GPS track and you should be able to find it. After following a somewhat rough trail to the lake, we were delighted to see that its shoreline was dried back many meters, allowing for easy passage along it. Even though a trail has been cut around the east shore of Hidden Lake, it’s much easier and more pleasurable to hike alongside it in the open.

From the south end of Hidden Lake we followed bits of trail through light forest and then cairns and trails up a steep scramble through the headwall along Foch Creek and past the impressive Fossil Falls. This section should not be under estimated! With heavy packs on and pebbles-on-slab terrain, it felt exposed in places. I could see some folks turning around here – especially if they don’t have proper hiking boots and poles for stability. 

Gorgeous views from the upper headwall back over our ascent route – note the trail in the scree to the right.

After dropping the big packs and drinking some much needed Gatorade we put on our small and light scrambling packs and backtracked along the trail towards Mount Sarrail. We only had to backtrack for about 5 minutes before spotting an obvious grass / slab gully giving us access to Sarrail’s lower slopes. On hindsight we should have hit the main west shoulder sooner, but we traversed below the ridge for a while before finally heading up to the shoulder and finding the proper trail.

Jon on the easy west ridge of Sarrail.
The down climbs aren’t an issue if you’re used to scrambling and have dry conditions like we did.
Great views of the ridge of Rod coming up to the scrambling section.

Mount Sarrail is not a technical peak and the west ridge was delightful scrambling, but after climbing almost 500 meters vertical with big packs under a warm sun, the extra 1000 meters were a bit of work. There are a few easy down climbs along the ridge but no major difficulties. The summit views were spoiled a bit by smoke but we enjoyed the summit in windless, sunny, warm weather. 

Gorgeous views back down the west ridge with Warrior, Waka Nambe, Aster Lake, Onslow, King George and the Royal Group, Northover (L to R) visible.
Mount Joffre looms over Marlborough. I would snowshoe up to both of these summits in late June of 2014.
I love this shot of Jon with Mount Foch on the left.
Summit views from Mount Sarrail with Foch and Petain on the left and Joffre at center looming over Marlborough. Cordonnier and Warrior to the right of Joffre and Northover on the right with King George and the Royal Group in the far distance. Aster Lake clearly visible to the right.

After almost an hour on the summit it was time to head back down and finish our backpack into Aster Lake.

Stunning views of the west ridge, including this one towards Mount Lyautey (R).
The Royal Group looms over Aster Lake, from left to right, Princess Mary, Prince George, King George, Prince Albert, Prince Edward and Prince Henry. Prince John and Queen Mary are out of the photo to the right. Mounts Onslow, Northover and Defender are tiny bumps in front of the royals!

The descent wasn’t an issue and we followed obvious trails and cairns back to the Aster Lake / Northover Ridge trail before turning back to our packs near the dried up tarn and continuing towards Aster Lake.

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