The first descent of Mt. Forbes

Tags: Posted on November 06, 2007

At left: Mt. Forbes as seen from the Columbia Icefields.

In September 1997, Ptor Spricenieks twisted my arm into quiting my construction job, and driving from our homes in Whistler B.C. to the Rockies, with intents of skiing the north face of Mt. Forbes. Mt. Forbes is significant because at 3612 meters, it's the highest peak in Banff National Park, and its beautifuly steep face just beckoned to be skied. So after a full days drive, we arrived at the parking area on the icefields parkway and began our three day adventure. Day 1 was an 18 km hike which ended with a chest deep, ice cold river fording, just a few hundred meters below the toe of the Mons Glacier. Day 2 was the day. After 3000 feet of scrambling, we finally reached the glacier and the transition to ski touring mode. A releif after carrying our skies on our backs for 21 km! After another four thousand feet of glacier and climbing the face, we finally arrived at the summit. The sharp pointy summit of Mt. Forbes is especially memorable for me. The late afternoon light was crisp and warm and there were stunning views in all directions. The summit was too small to stand on but made a perfect handhold to balance from when clicking into our skis. The first ten turns were on great sugary corn snow on a 40 degree slope before it rolled into the 50+ degree face. The adreniline pumped through our bodies as we dug our edges into the icy face. Our legs burned as with neither of had skied since the spring, but of course it was just like riding a bike, which we had spent a lot of time on during the summer. The lower angled glacier below the face was a fun high speed giant slalom affair with a few little crevass hops.

It got dark during the descent and we were forced to have an open bivi after crossing the Mons glacier. Of course it started raining in the middle of the night and we were forced to press on. As it got light we, we finished the scrambling in a full downpour, found our tent, and preceded to make dinner and take a nap before hiking out. The river fording with our heavy packs fortunately was without incident, and we made it back to the van, exhausted but incredibly satisfied, and thrilled about our successful journey.