I made it this time! After a previous attempt at the summit of Jimmy Simpson with Raff and Josh in January of 2007 I returned 3.5 years later and bagged it via the other side on a gorgeous fall day. Ironically there was probably more snow in October than we had on our first attempt in January.
Originally I had a trip planned with Kerry to do Cathedral Mountain. Due to fresh snow of unknown quantity and an aversion to a 03:00 wake-up time we canceled those plans on Friday evening. I knew what I'd replace it with - I was in the mood to try a solo jaunt up Jimmy Simpson.
Simpson is the only peak out of 265 that I've done so far, where I turned back due to low energy levels while the rest of my party successfully bagged the peak. (NOTE: TJ Nault just informed me on February 20 2011 that in fact Raff and Josh did not summit Jimmy Simpson and I did not miss a summit on that trip. They were 1.5 km from the true summit when they thought they'd bagged the peak. Raff has since confirmed this.) This fact has been bothering me for quite some time already and with a perfect weather forecast and the promise of superb views I was in a good mood as I left the Bow Lake parking lot. There was about 2 inches of fresh snow on the ground and the temperature was a chilly -6 degrees but I soon warmed up on the excellent trail around Bow Lake.
[A gorgeous scene along Bow Lake as I start my hike. The lake wasn't frozen but the landscape was covered in fresh snow which made for some interesting contrasts and colors. ++]
[A wide panorama from about half way down the lake with my approach trail on the left, Crowfoot at center and the trail forwards at right. ++]
[Looking across the flats that skiers use to approach the Wapta in winter. The Onion, St. Nicholas and Olive from R to L above.]
I knew that there was a difficult scramble route up the SSW ridge of Simpson but with the fresh snow, the fact that I was solo and the fact that nobody else seems to ascend this peak I decided to try an easier route that I've had in the back of my mind for a while already. This route essentially follows the ski ascent route up avalanche gullies on the south side of the peak, well to the west of the scrambling route. I wasn't sure exactly where to start my ascent but this made the trip more fun.
I hiked the Bow Glacier Falls trail past the turnoff to the ACC Bow Hut trail. A short time after this branch the trail descends back to gravel flats. At this point I turned climbers right and started up an obvious avalanche gully. I stuck to climbers left of the gully, simply to avoid walking on rocks and boulders that were all slicked up from the fresh snow. This worked well and I largely avoided any bushwhacking too! It was very lucky that I chose this line. When I reached tree line and the upper part of the bowl I happened on my first cairn. It was large and I could see a whole line of cairns guiding my route through a small cliff band. If I was any lower my day would have been tougher for sure.
[Turned climber's right out of this photo soon after this. The moraine at right is used to access Iceberg Lake and Portal Peak. The canyon at left is the approach to the Bow Hut and the Wapta Icefields. Bow Falls out of sight to the right.]
[Starting up slick rocks to the upper ledge traverse.]
[I side-hilled up this slope until I spotted a ledge traverse to the main bowl under the slopes to the summit.]
[Looking back at my ascent slope which goes from bottom center up to here.]
[Looking ahead to the back bowl and route to the summit ridge left of center in the far distance.]
[Gorgeous views back over Bow Lake towards Dolomite Peak.]
[Getting closer to the back bowl now, above tree line.]
[Looking back at my track]
[Have to find a way to avoid dropping down to my right by traversing ledges to the left.]
[Gorgeous morning views back along my ascent tracks with Dolomite, Crowfoot, Vulture and Olive (L to R) in the bg. ++]
[A cairn guides me along the exposed ledges - this is looking back at my tracks.]
[Through the ledges, the route is obvious again - the slopes to the col and summit ridge are just out of sight on the left.]
After the cliff band traverse I still had a long way to go. I aimed for the upper col and trudged on! The slope steepens up to the col but it wasn't a big deal and the sun was warm on my back. The scenery was already stunning and I knew I was in for a treat on the summit.
[Looking back at my track exiting the ledges.]
[Scree slope to the col - summit out of sight to the right.]
[Stunning views back to the Wapta with Portal, Gordon, St. Nicholas, Olive and Balfour (R to L) in the bg.]
The summit looked a long ways off as I trudged up to the col but again, the views made me keep going. The wind got a lot colder the higher I went. I reached the summit almost exactly 3 hours after leaving the car - not a long day by any means, but it felt bigger than it was because of the snow and isolation. The views did not disappoint! Especially cool were the lakes that were not frozen over yet. Combined with the fresh snow, the aqua color of the water was a unique combination that I haven't seen outside of spring climbs. I spent about 40 minutes on the summit before my frozen fingers forced me to descend.
[The summit is still a trudge from the col.]
[Incredible lighting and views over an unfrozen Iceberg Lake (feeds Bow Falls) towards Portal, Gordon, St. Nicholas, Olive and Balfour (R to L).]
[Peering directly east off the summit way down to hwy #93.]
[Looking north over Peyto Lake (C) towards Patterson (L), Weed (C) and Observation (R).]
[Looking west and north at Thompson, Rhondda, Habel, Baker, Tilly, Trapper, Peyto, Mistaya, Caldron and Patterson (L to R). ++]
[Slightly wider pano looking north and east, across hwy #93. ++]
[Willingdon, Crown and South Tower at right with Kentigern to the left.]
[Recondite in the far distance over Marmot and Observation.]
[Mount Noyes at right and Murchison in clouds at left.]
[Great views over Caldron Lake with the route up Mistaya clearly visible at far right.]
[Baker (L) is a gorgeous peak. To it's right lie Tilly, Trapper and Peyto.]
[A slightly wider shot from previous shows Habel and Rhondda to the left of Baker.]
[Classic Wapta peaks including Portal, Gordon, St. Nicholas, Olive, Balfour, Vulture and Crowfoot (R to L). ++]
[Even the sexy Ayesha shows up on the far right and Collie and Des Poilus on the far left.]
[My favorite view of the day was over a still unfrozen Bow Lake looking south to Mount Hector and Bow Peak. ++]
[Telephoto over Crowfoot (L) and Little Crowfoot (C) towards Mount Temple.]
[Andromache, Little Hector, Hector, Bow (L to R).]
The descent went great until I decided to shortcut my ascent route at the cairn that I first saw on my way up. I figured there had to be more cairns and since I didn't see any on my ascent route, I decided to descend on skier's left - well to the east of my ascent line. I ended up in thick bush and steep cliffs! By some small miracle I managed to find my way through the cliff bands but it involved difficult down climbing and loose terrain. NOT recommended and NOT worth it! Oh well. :)
[At the bottom of the scree slope from the col, looking over my escape route.]
[A nice set of footprints to follow back across the ledges.]
[Looking back along the ledge route to the col and summit at upper right.]
[The sublime views of Bow Lake and Crowfoot Mountain on descent. ++]
[Hiking out to the Bow Falls trail.]
[The feeder stream from the Wapta to Bow Lake.]
[Incredible colors on Bow Lake.]
[A panorama of peaks south of Bow Lake including Andromache (C) and Bow Peak (R). ++]
A highly recommended trip on a day where you want amazing views and an easy scramble.