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)
GPS Track: Gaia
Map: Google Maps 
Photo Album: View

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 Mount 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.

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).

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 with the Lyells rising above, Mount David Thompson at left.
Mount Wilson lies huge over hwy 93 with Mount Cline rising at distant right and Survey Peak at lower left.
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. 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.

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