Mount Forbes
3612m (11851ft.)

Located east of the Mons Icefield, between Glacier River and Forbes Brook; 18 km southwest of Saskatchewan River Crossing. Banff Park, Alberta Major headwater Saskatchewan River.
Latitude 51; 51; 35 Longitude 116; 55; 50, Topo map 82N/15

Panorama viewpoint: Saskatchewan River Crossing. Can be seen from Highway 93N

Named by James Hector in 1859. Forbes, Professor Edward (Professor Forbes was in the natural history department at the University of Edinburgh during the mid-nineteenth century.) Official name.

First ascended in 1902 by J. Norman Collie, James Outram, H.E.M. Stutfield, G.M. Weed, H. Woolley, guided by Christian Kaufmann, Hans Kaufmann. Journal reference AJ 21-370, CAJ 12-26. Other reference Outram Pg. 345.

Looking southwest to Mount Forbes from the Icefield Parkway
More photos

Other Information
Looking southwest to Mount Outrum with Mount Forbes beyond at right

"This is one of the great summits of the Canadian Rockies and with its tooth like profile can be spotted from far away. The southwest ridge, route of the first ascent, rises about 1500 metres from Forbes Brook, while the snow covered northwest face, today's normal route, rises a modest 600 metres above the north glacier of the Mons Icefield." -courtesy Chic Scott

Mount Forbes is one of the most outstanding in the Rockies and is, in some ways, quite similar to Mount Assiniboine. At 3612 metres Mount Forbes is only six metres lower in elevation and, like Assiniboine, it towers some 350 metres higher than the neighbouring peaks, its pyramidal summit often hidden in the clouds while lesser, but still very respectable, nearby mountains are visible. Mount Forbes is the highest mountain entirely within Banff National Park.

James Outram and Norman Collie's parties combined forces in 1902 to attempt Mount Forbes. Collie greatly admired the peak referring to, "awesome precipices soaring to a ramp of stainless snow whose knife-edged ridges culminate in a sharp pyramid that pierces the blue heavens like a javelin."

There had been some competition and even animosity between the two as Outram had made the first ascent of Mount Columbia following Collie's preparatory exploration of the area. The fine Victorian manners of both gentlemen were demonstrated on this challenging first ascent. At one point Collie, rather than increase the risk to his companions of being the fourth on the rope, abandoned the ascent. Outram feeling that Collie, "more than all the rest, deserved the gratification and honour of being the first to conquer Mount Forbes," sent the two guides down to accompany Collie to rejoin the party. The two guides were Christian Kaufmann and Hans Kaufmann who Collie was to honour by suggesting the name Kaufmann Peaks for two nearby summits.

It is clear from letters written to Charles S. Thompson that Norman Collie regarded Mount Forbes as the most difficult of all his climbs in the Canadian Rockies. This was due to the fact that much loose, "rotten" rock was encountered and also because of a shortage of climbing rope available to the large party.

In 1926, J. Monroe Thorington wrote of Mount Forbes, "What is there left to say of Mt. Forbes -that wonderful mountain we had placed, with some temerity, at the end of our climbing programme? It is a height to which one may look up, as if Kim to the rim of the Himalaya, and say,'Surely the Gods live here.' Skyward rearing,like a watch-tower of the immortals it is a perpetual challenge."

It is not surprising that a peak as prominent as Mount Forbes was named by James Hector of the Palliser Expedition. Edward Forbes was Hector's Professor of Natural History at the University of Edinburgh.

Edward Forbes (1815-1854) was a pioneer in the field of biogeography and palaeontology. As a student at the University of Edinburgh, he studied medicine, but also undertook instruction in natural history.

In 1833 Forbes undertook a botanical tour of Norway. He then gave up medicine as a career and attended natural history lectures in Paris before travelling to Algeria to study fresh-water and land molluscs. He served as naturalist on HMS Beacon, surveying both the Grecian Archipelago and parts of Asia Minor in both 1838 and 1841.

In 1842, Forbes became the secretary and curator of the Museum of Economic Geology, run by the Geological Society of London. In 1843 he was appointed professor of botany at King's College, London. In 1844 he resigned from the Museum of Economic Geology to take up the duties of palaeontologist to the Geological Survey of Great Britain. In 1851 he progressed to professor of natural history at the Government School of Mines. 3 years later he was appointed professor of natural history at the University of Edinburgh, but died 6 months after taking up the position.

Climbing Routes
West Ridge (Normal Route) III
This is the route that everybody staggers 21 km to do. No technical problems and very much a pleasant route up a big high mountain. Dougherty, Selected Alpine Climbs page 180

North-West Face Variation III
This is the face that the Normal Route avoids. Claimed as a first ascent in 1971 but probably climbed much sooner. If you'd like something a little more invigorating than the W ridge finish then this an ideal candidate. Dougherty, Selected Alpine Climbs page 180

West Ridge of Rosita III 5.3
Rosita is the summit to the west of the col on the W ridge of Forbes. Though it is little more than a bump in the W ridge, the ridge that rises from the Mons Glacier up to the "summit", is an interesting scramble that provides an alternative way of gaining the upper W ridge. Dougherty, Selected Alpine Climbs page 180

Back To PeakFinder Top Level