As you can read in the "interesting facts" note above, Simpson Peak is, well, interesting. Maybe not as interesting as it's neighbor, Simpson Ridge, or "Mount Edmonton", but it has its own charms including the fact, of course, that its officially unnamed and I'm sure we're one of maybe two or three parties at most who've bothered standing on its summit.
[The entire length of Simpson Ridge is around 20km from the Nublet in the SE to Mount Edmonton / Simpson Ridge in the NW. I think it makes sense to label the peaks along it as indicated on this topo and just call the entire ridge "Simpson". Easy peasy. ++]
As we were ascending Simpson Ridge to the NW of Simpson Peak, we kept looking for possible routes that would save us time and effort in a traverse between the two. The immediate obvious one sucked as it involved losing hundreds of meters of elevation from the ridge before following a steep snow line up to the peak. Since it was 18:00 when we were finally done with the ridge, we no longer had time or energy for this option anyway. That's when I spotted another potential route that would be much quicker if it worked. In a route-finding theme for the weekend my mountain goat senses were tingling quite accurately for once! I figured we could descend to the col between the ridge and peak and from there traverse under obvious cliffs on the west face of Simpson Peak. From these scree slopes it looked like there might be an escape up to the north ridge. The big unknown was whether or not we could find a route from the north ridge to the summit as it was clearly blocked by technical terrain near the summit. Phil and Eric agreed to try this route - so off we went!
[Looking from Simpson Ridge to the Peak with our planned route. Note the "X" just under the summit ("O"). We had our finders crossed that we could find a route along the east face under the summit block that we allow us to break the summit on it's SE end.]
Amazingly, the planned route worked about as good as an on-sight scramble can. We descended to the col and started the slog up the west face scree to the north ridge. Phil led the way and before long we were on the ridge. From here the summit block looked inaccessible (for a scrambler) and we were once again faced with finding a route with our noses already into it. Once again we got lucky.
[We get our first views of Rock Lake beneath Indian Peak as we traverse.]
[Great views of our peak, showing that it is, indeed, worthy of a separate name. I mean, c'mon! If "The Nublet" is named, surely this one deserves more than just another contour line?!]
[Phil on the traverse of the west scree slopes towards the break which is located at the two snow patches above him here.]
[Eric follows on the traverse with Simpson Ridge in the background and our descent route visible along the ridge.]
[The terrain is steep and bloody loose. We have no idea if there's going to be a reasonable route or not.]
[Phil is happy to be on the north ridge, looking back at Simpson Ridge.]
[On the north ridge looking towards the summit block.]
[Find Eric - he's in there somewhere! Looking back down the north ridge towards Simpson Ridge and even at the Police Meadows at mid-right down the bushwhack valley. ++]
As we approached the summit block it became overhanging and very loose. I sussed out a reasonable route across the east face of the block before leading up steep, blocky terrain to the SE end and finally up to the summit itself! A very sad looking cairn (3 rocks loosely stacked) greeted us, so we weren't an FA on this one. There was no register and no other signs of human activity. It was already around 20:00 as we stood on our second peak of the day and took in some great evening views of the Assiniboine / Ferro Pass area.
[Phil heads for the summit as the shadows grow long. Nestor Peak in front of him here. Note the two small lakes at bottom left? These are mentioned in the Simpson Ridge / Edmonton first ascent party's trip report from their descent route. ++]
[Large, blocky and terribly loose terrain under the summit.]
[Eric follows us onto the traverse. Black Brett and Mount Bourgeau in the distance at right.]
[This is why we beat ourselves up so badly to get to these rarely ascended peaks! Nestor Lake is stunning in the late day lighting as is its namesake peak in this view over Ferro Pass towards Nestor Peak, Assiniboine, The Marshall, Watson and Indian Peak (L to R). ++]
[Nestor Lake is a real backcountry gem.]
[Mount Assiniboine at left and The Marshall at right.]
[Looking north over our traverse route from Simpson Ridge. Rock Lake is at mid-left here. Rick Collier and the Edmonton ACC group both ascended Simpson Ridge from the left - the easiest route by far when the Surprise Creek trail wasn't burned to a crisp and there was a bridge over the Simpson River at Surprise Creek. ++]
[The late day lighting is sublime in the view over Nestor Lake and Ferro Pass. Note how far up valley and close to the Mitchell River Valley the Verdant Creek fire got! Mount Watson rises over the Mitchell River Valley at left and Indian Peak rises over Ferro Pass at right.]
[Views down our approach valley towards the Police Meadows. Citadel Pass at distant center with Simpson Ridge at left.]
[Nasswald Peak is named after Conrad Kain's birthplace in Austria. Golden Mountain in shadow at left.]
[A great shot looking far north towards Storm Mountain with Castle Mountain looking short! Bonnet Peak rising at distant right.]
[Mount Beersheba rises over Og Mountain.]
[Looking over Ferro Pass down the Mitchell River Valley. This valley was the original popular horse access route to the Assiniboine area but is rarely used to access the core anymore. I'm reasonably certain that the two snowy peaks on this photo are unnamed.]
After enjoying the summit views in the early evening lighting, we quickly turned our attention to the descent. We essentially had two options and both involved going over unknown terrain while very rapidly running out of both daylight and energy. We knew the descent past three small tarns would work well on the upper part, but we were quite concerned about the potential for waterfalls along the exit canyon. We preferred our original planned ascent line for Simpson Peak that would take us back down our ascent route. As horrible as the bushwhacking was, we knew it would work and going downhill is always much easier and quicker than up - even in Krummholtz forests. The big unknown here was the potential for steep slabs and some pretty steep snow slopes. We rolled the dice and went with the preferred route.
[Phil descends dinner plates on the summit block.]
[Looking out over our escape valley. We'll descend the slopes at center bottom here before going to war once again with the nasty bushwhacking out to the lovely Police Meadows visible at mid left here.]
[Loose, muddy, steep. What can go wrong?]
[We used snow as much as possible. At this point my feet had been soaking wet since our marshy approach to the Police Meadows and I was shivering from the cold and the exertion of the day.]
[A magnificent Billy Goat.]
[Once again we got a bit lucky with the route. Steep, slabby terrain and snow forced us down a choke point that actually worked very well! Simpson Ridge at center here. ++]
[Getting lucky with a break in the lower cliffs.]
[Looking back at Simpson Peak from the alpine bowl on its NE side. Click here for our approx route.]
Although it was certainly a relief to be in the alpine valley beneath Simpson Ridge and Peak again, it was also time to keep hurrying along. It was now 21:00 and we were quickly running out of extra time! With tired minds and bodies (we'd done about 28km and 1900m of elevation gain already), we had to face the somewhat daunting task of racing darkness out of the beautiful-but-hellish approach valley. The first order of business was descending past the waterfall. Again, we had two choices. Again, we chose the known route through the Krummholtz rather than take the more open, but technically more difficult and unknown route. Although this worked, once again we were surprised by the difficulties through a lower cliff band that certainly involved a move or two of difficult scrambling to get down. Once down this last technical obstacle we were faced with a straightforward, but physically exhausting bushwhack back to the cabin.
[Uh. This feel familiar - but not in a good way.]
[Steep, choked up, bushy and wet. This terrain isn't as easy as it looks from afar.]
[Sneaking off the last technical obstacle.]
[Sunset over the falls.]
Despite our best efforts, we did not beat sunset. It was 22:45 when we finally got back to the cabin. Greg and his friend were already in bed but were very accommodating as we had to make supper and set up our bunks. We knew we had an even longer day the next day on Nestor Peak which was almost certainly going to be over 2100m of height gain and involve more bushwhacking and unknown routes. As I passed out in my bunk, I reflected that there was no way we were going back up that valley for Nestor! We'd have to find another way...
[Bushwhacking as darkness falls around us - still about an hour left to get to the cabin. Simpson Peak at upper right here.]
[One final photo before the world goes completely dark - Eric enjoys a brief moment of peace in a clearing in the forest. It was short-lived.]