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Sarbach, Mount

Summit Elevation (m): 3155
Elevation Gain (m): 1650
Trip Time (hr): 8.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 19
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3/4 – you fall, you die or at least break something
Difficulty Notes: A fall on the crux would severely injure or kill so take necessary precautions.
Technical Rating: SC7; YDS (4th)
Map: Google Maps


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. 

Mount Sarbach Route Map

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.

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

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.

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

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 (i.e. Storm and Bogart).

Gazing back along the plateau on the ridge towards Cline (L) and Murchison (C).
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 signers were on their way to Kaufmann Peaks, which made Raf and I want to keep going – and on hindsight we should have.

A ridiculous summit panorama including the Freshfield Icefield (L) and Mount Mummery, David Thompson, Forbes, Outram, Christian, Walter, Ernest, Edward, Rudolph, Columbia, Erasmus, Survey, Amery, Wilson, Cline, Resolute, Murchison, Bison, South Totem, Spreading, Quill, Noyes, Weed, Chephren, White Pyramid, Epaulette, Howse (R).
Gorgeous views over the Howse River towards Mount Forbes and Outram. Glacier Lake at right, Mount David Thompson at left.
Mount Wilson lies huge over hwy 93 with Mount Cline rising at distant right.
Views south towards Kaufmann, Epaulette, Chephren, White Pyramid and Howse Peak.

After 30 minutes on the summit, enjoying the incredible panorama we reluctantly started down.

Views up the Mistaya River Valley and Icefields Parkway from descent.

Nine 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 lack of views. All the summit register entries for 2009 (3 besides ours) mentioned that they didn’t have any views due to the smoke.

Mount Sarbach
73 photos
Fall color and Epaulette (C) and Sarbach (R) from the parking area.
Fall color and Epaulette (C) and Sarbach (R) from the parking area.
The Mistaya River Canyon is impressive.
The Mistaya River Canyon is impressive.
Looking up the Mistaya River at Sarbach. Pretty much the whole route visible here.
Looking up the Mistaya River at Sarbach. Pretty much the whole route visible here.
Breaking tree line onto the lower north ridge of Sarbach looking back at the Saskatchewan Crossing and Mount Wilson.
Breaking tree line onto the lower north ridge of Sarbach looking back at the Saskatchewan Crossing and Mount Wilson.
Glacier Lake and Mount Sullivan and Erasmus.
Glacier Lake and Mount Sullivan and Erasmus.
Views back to Saskatchewan Crossing and Mount Wilson.
Views back to Saskatchewan Crossing and Mount Wilson.
Yep - this is still the Rockies! Loose piles of crappy limestone await... :)
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 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 and Arctomys Peak (R).
Looking over a beautiful Glacier Lake at the Lyell Icefield and Arctomys Peak (R).
This is a big bloody mountain - looking ahead to the notches and the false summit far above.
This is a big bloody mountain - looking ahead to the notches and the false summit far above.
The view west from the first notch.
The view west from the first notch.
Looking down hwy 11 towards Mount Cline.
Looking down hwy 11 towards Mount Cline.
Looking back at Raf approaching the first notch, I've already climbed out of it.
Looking back at Raf approaching the first notch, I've already climbed out of it.
Looking across the second notch.
Looking across the second notch.
Looking back at Raf descending into the second notch - lots of exposure here!
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 down climbs the second notch with Survey Peak in the bg.
Raf down climbs the second notch.
Raf down climbs the second notch.
Continuing along the broad north ridge as it starts to curve west.
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.
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.
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.
The football sized upper plateau on the ridge before the false summit.
Gazing back along the plateau on the ridge.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 scree trail runs past a bump on the ridge - no need gaining extra height on this one!
Views south towards Mount Chephren.
Views south towards Mount Chephren.
A great view of the false summit and the bypass trail in the scree in this look back.
A great view of the false summit and the bypass trail in the scree in this look back.
Views south towards Mount Chephren.
Views south towards Mount Chephren.
The Howse River with Mount David Thompson, Forbes, Outram and the Lyells at distant right.
The Howse River with Mount David Thompson, Forbes, Outram and the Lyells at distant right.
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.
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.
Mount Murchison.
Mount Murchison.
Looking back over Saskatchewan Crossing towards Mount Cline.
Looking back over Saskatchewan Crossing towards Mount Cline.
Mount Wilson.
Mount Wilson.
Glacier Lake with the Lyells and their icefield at left, center and Mount Columbia and Bryce at right.
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.
Raf approaches the summit ridge with Cline and Murchison behind him.
Raf on the summit ridge.
Raf on the summit ridge.
Raf on the summit ridge.
Raf on the summit ridge.
Raf on the summit ridge.
Raf on the summit ridge.
The crux is exposed and loose, but short and chunky.
The crux is exposed and loose, but short and chunky.
Gazing into the headwaters of Howse Creek at the Conway Group and Freshfield Icefield.
Gazing into the headwaters of Howse Creek at the Conway Group and Freshfield Icefield.
Mount Erasmus.
Mount Erasmus.
The Freshfields.
The Freshfields.
Chephren, White Pyramid and Howse with Kaufmann in the fg.
Chephren, White Pyramid and Howse with Kaufmann in the fg.
Forbes with Outram in front. David Thompson and Outram Lake at left.
Forbes with Outram in front. David Thompson and Outram Lake at left.
The Freshfields.
The Freshfields.
Great shot of the hanging east face glacier with Waterfowl Lakes and Chephren in the bg.
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!
Zoomed in on Forbes and Outram - both still on my list!
The Icefields Parkway with Mount Wilson and the North Saskatchewan River.
The Icefields Parkway with Mount Wilson and the North Saskatchewan River.
Totem Tower, Bison, South Totem Peak and Spreading Peak.
Totem Tower, Bison, South Totem Peak and Spreading Peak.
View over Waterfowl Lakes includes Noyes, Weed and Observation Peak.
View over Waterfowl Lakes includes Noyes, Weed and Observation Peak.
Some local legends in the summit register.
Some local legends in the summit register.
Damn! We should be headed on to Kaufmann too...
Damn! We should be headed on to Kaufmann too...
Interestingly, the summit register has been moved around a bit over the years.
Interestingly, the summit register has been moved around a bit over the years.
Vern sips a Starbucks on Sarbach. Say that 10 times quickly. ;)
Vern sips a Starbucks on Sarbach. Say that 10 times quickly. 😉
Vern on the summit.
Vern on the summit.
Raf on the summit.
Raf on the summit.
The route up Mount Outram is obvious.
The route up Mount Outram is obvious.
The ridge continues impressively towards Kaufmann and Epaulette Peak.
The ridge continues impressively towards Kaufmann and Epaulette Peak.
Raf gets ready to leave the summit.
Raf gets ready to leave the summit.
Descending the summit ridge.
Descending the summit ridge.
Descending the summit ridge.
Descending the summit ridge.
Descending the summit ridge.
Descending the summit ridge.
Interesting terrain descending the ridge from the summit.
Interesting terrain descending the ridge from the summit.
Looking north towards Mount Coleman.
Looking north towards Mount Coleman.
Smoldering forest fire near the approach for Wilson / Cline.
Smoldering forest fire near the approach for Wilson / Cline.
Mount Murchison is huge - and likely an 11000er.
Mount Murchison is huge - and likely an 11000er.
Back at tree line looking south down hwy #93.  Bison on the left and Chephren on the right.
Back at tree line looking south down hwy #93. Bison on the left and Chephren on the right.
Amery on the left, Wilson on the right looking up hwy #93.
Amery on the left, Wilson on the right looking up hwy #93.

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