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Looking southwest to Mount Forbes from the Icefield Parkway

Mount Forbes

  • 3612 m (11,851ft)
  • First Ascent
  • Naming History
51.8597N -116.932W
Located east of the Mons Icefield, between Glacier River and Forbes Brook; 18 km southwest of Saskatchewan River Crossing

Province: Alberta
Park: Banff
Headwater: Saskatchewan
Visible from Highway: 93N
Ascent Date: 1902
Ascent Party: J. Norman Collie, James Outram, H.E.M. Stutfield, G.M. Weed, H. Woolley
Ascent Guide: Christian Kaufmann, Hans Kaufmann
Year Named: 1859
Named by: James Hector
Named for: Forbes, Professor Edward (Professor Forbes was in the natural history department at the University of Edinburgh during the mid-nineteenth century.)

"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 AssiniboineJames 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 ColumbiaChristian Kaufmann and Hans Kaufmann who Collie was to honour by suggesting the name Kaufmann PeaksCharles 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.

Looking southwest to Mount Outrum with Mount Forbes beyond at right

Photo: Looking northeast to Mount Forbes from Mount Cambrai (courtesy Rienk Lakeman)

Looking south-southwest to Mount Forbes from Mount Wilson (courtesy Marta Wojnarowska)

Looking east to Mount Forbes from Mons Peak (courtesy Brad Harrison)

Looking southeast to Mount Forbes from near Mount Lyell (courtesy Brad Harrison)

Looking southwest to Mount Forbes from the Icefields Parkway

Looking west to Mount Outram (Mount Forbes beyond) from Mount Sarbach (courtesy Sonny Bou)

Looking west-southwest to Mount Forbes from Mount Sarbach (courtesy Sonny Bou)

Looking southwest to Mount Outram (left) and Mount Forbes