Simpson Ridge (Mount Edmonton)


 

Trip Details
Mountain Range: 
Mountain Subrange: 
Attained Summit?: 
Yes
Trip Date: 
Saturday, July 7, 2018
Summit Elevation (m): 
2,874
Summit Elevation (ft): 
9,430
Elevation Gain (m): 
1900
Round Trip Time: 
15.00
Total Distance (km): 
31.00
Quick 'n Easy Rating: 
Class 3 : you fall, you break your leg
Difficulty Notes: 

A long approach on good trails until Police Meadows. Remote BC bushwhack followed by scrambling with possible snow / ice on route.

Map
Video

Trip Report

As of July 2018, Simpson Ridge had been on Phil and my peak hit list for more than a few years already. The main reason was an enticing comment from the indomitable Rick Collier about his second ascent of the mountain in 1996 (76 years after the first ascent in 1920!);

 

At the high point on the NE edge, there was a large summit cairn, with - and what a wonderful surprise! -- the original 1920 record by Bulyea, Wates, and Gold, handwritten on ACC stationery. I took a photo of the record, rewrapped this original along with my own note, and placed both in the canister and the canister in cairn.

 

Reading that there might still be an original 1920 summit register waiting to be rediscovered put our imaginations into overdrive. We didn't yet know about the naming confusion or the difficult and multiple attempts at the original ascent - and didn't realize this very interesting part of the mountain's history until after returning from our trip days later. 

 

Originally, while planning our ascent Phil and I were planning to use the same straightforward route that Rick had used up the SW aspect from the Surprise Creek / Rock Lake / Ferro Pass approach. Thanks to a decommissioned trail from the Porcupine Campground along the Simpson River, and a removed bridge over the Simpson River to Surprise Creek in 2015, combined with the large Verdant Creek wildfire in 2017, our hopes to access this mountain "easily" were dashed. But we don't give up very quickly, and after viewing the mountain from the north from the summits of Citadel, Fatigue and Golden, we were confident that there was a scramble route up a somewhat remote and inaccessible bowl on the eastern side of the mountain. The bonus of this route was twofold, firstly we could finally see what the Police Meadows and cabin were all about and secondly we could approach and exit on good trails from the Sunshine Meadows, through Citadel Pass and via the Simpson River Trail.

 

 
[Rick's route from Hwy 93 is still around 1900m height gain and over 22km one way to the summit, but it's less height gain on exit and could be biked part of the way. Also, there is essentially no major bushwhacking - unlike our route! That's all changed with the Verdant Creek fire and a washed out bridge. ++]

 

There were a few "gotchas" with our plan. The first huge PITA was the sheer distance and elevation changes it involved. By accessing the mountain from the Alberta side of the Rockies via Sunshine Meadows, we would have to travel at least 22.5km and up to 28km each way, if we didn't catch the gondola / bus at Sunshine Village. Even with the lift, we were looking at around 1900m of total height gain and at least 870m of height loss on approach, all of which would be regained on exit when we'd be tired and sore from our ascents. Then there was the route itself. Despite how viable it looked from many kilometers away, I've dealt with BC bush more than once and it is NOT easy or pleasurable terrain! I remember one particular case on Mount Alexandra where it took us an hour to travel about 500m! My cardinal rule is to never, ever, ever underestimate BC bushwhacking for its level of intense suckiness. Despite this rule, I was still positive about the planned route for some reason. Sometimes I wonder about my sanity, to be honest. Phil, of course, was his usual bubbly self about the entire plan. He was still a BC bushwhacking virgin and didn't know what he was signing up for - he'd realize it a few days later while crawling through a vast field of Krummholtz in the rain on a 40 degree slope! surprise

 

Thinking about it now, days later, I'm surprised we had the desire to re-hike the Sunshine Meadows trail to Citadel Pass, so soon after doing it with big packs only a week earlier! But we were both bitten by the explor8ion bug - wanting to be a third recorded ascent and to find an original ascent register from the 1920's. We didn't even think about the fact that we were also almost certainly forging a new route by tackling the peak from its east aspect via a largely untraveled and unexplored valley.

 

This is a long trip report - just like the trip itself. Feel free to skip directly to the scramble of Simpson Ridge, or continue reading about our approach to, and impressions of the Police Meadows below.

 

The Police Meadows / Cabin

 

For years now I've wondered what the Police Meadows were like. There isn't very much written about this place online and the few reports I could find that even mentioned it were quite vague. Now that I've been there, I seriously considered not doing a report on this area. I had to ask myself if better beta is going to ruin this place? Are hordes and hordes of backpackers now going to follow my GPS track in there, bringing all the trouble that humans bring when too many of us visit the same place? After thinking about it a while, I decided that the type of folks who bother to visit the Police Meadows after reading my description of it, will likely be the same sort of people that do their best to maintain and upkeep special places like this, rather than take advantage of them and do harm.

 

With the introduction of reservation-only camping in the core Assiniboine area in 2018, places like the Police Meadows, Mitchell River and Surprise Creek cabins are bound to see more attention from hikers. We saw evidence of this ourselves, as the cabin ended up being so full that two hikers had to go back to the free Porcupine Campground after hiking all the way in to check it out. Whether folks like it or not, the days of secret cabins tucked into hidden valleys going unnoticed and unused is long over. C'est la vie. Rather than horde these special places to a few people, let's open them up a bit, to relieve some of the intense pressure on the few key areas that everyone else focuses on. This improves the overall wilderness experience for everyone rather than limiting it to just a few. Especially in Canada, we have plenty of wilderness to go around and only a very small subset of hikers will bother venturing into the little remote corners of it anyway - freeing up the easier-to-access spots for others.

 


[In this photo, taken the week previous from Citadel Peak, you can see the Police Meadows at center bottom across the Simpson River Valley, with Nestor Peak rising high above.]

 

The weekend before our Police Meadows adventure, Phil Richards and I spent a night at Fatigue Pass and two days bagging some peaks around there. After seeing Simpson Ridge repeatedly the weekend before, it crept up the priority list and after taking some photographs over the Police Meadows that hinted at a pretty lovely spot to spend the night, it was bumped to the very top of the list and became our destination for the very next weekend! Eric Coulthard decided to join us - I'm not sure he realized what he was signing up for though as he hadn't been on a mountainous adventure since December 2017! devil

 


[A telephoto from Fatigue Mountain showing the Police Meadows with the two rustic cabins visible.]

 

Unlike the weekend before when we missed the chance at a gondola ride up to the Sunshine Meadows by one day (!), we decided to take full advantage of the ride, saving ourselves over 5km of hiking uphill around 500m with overnight packs. We also decided to pack much lighter - leaving all extras behind. I did pack my mid, however, just in case the cabin was overrun with mice or not otherwise a good option. I've seen outfitter cabins before and the fact that this one was free didn't inspire a ton of confidence in its condition! We were expecting a bit of a mixed weather day and ended up getting exactly that on our approach from Sunshine Village through the meadows towards Howard Douglas Lake. I had mixed feelings about hiking the very same trail as a week before, in similarly dreary weather, but soon I was more into it, enjoying the moody landscapes and the fact that at least the clouds were high enough that we could see the peaks we had recently been on top of.

 


[Sunshine Meadows awaits. We'll take the much smaller left hand trail towards Citadel Pass from here.]


[Interesting lighting and cloud over Fatigue Mountain. Nasswald to its right.]


[Clouds billowing over the shoulder of Quartz Hill.]

 
[Looking over Howard Douglas Lake towards Fatigue, Nasswald, Golden, Citadel and Nestor in the distance at far right. ++]


[A moody hike towards Citadel Pass and Peak.]


[Wildflowers are now blooming ferociously in the meadows.]

 

Once we finally reached Citadel Pass, I became more interested and engaged. This was now "new" territory as we hadn't hiked beyond the pass the weekend before. The last time I hiked through Citadel Pass and down into the Simpson River Valley was in September of 2016 on a solo backpacking / scrambling trip into the core Mount Assiniboine area. As we hiked down the very steep switchbacks I noticed one thing certainly hadn't changed since I'd been here last - the Grizzlies still obviously love these slopes! Huge chunks of dirt and sod were ripped from the ground all the way down the upper part of the trail. Some of the tears in the earth looked pretty darn fresh too. We took the right hand branch around 3km down from Citadel Pass, marked as "Porcupine" and descended an even steeper part of the trail to the campground. I've heard not-so-positive things about this free, first-come-first-serve campground, but honestly I didn't see any issues with it. Unlike the main trail leading through Golden Valley and Valley of the Rocks, at least there's fresh, running water here! There was also mosquitoes - something I've noticed a lot of this summer so far in the backcountry.

 


[That looks a bit ominous! Another weather front moves over our destination as we start the steep descent from Citadel Pass to the Porcupine Campground and the Simpson River Valley.]


[You know you're in BC when the bush is so tangled and avalanche paths so prevalent and steep.]


[Nestor Peak (L) and Simpson Peak (R) lie many kilometers and many hundreds of meters of height loss / gains across the Simpson River Valley. Hours later we would find ourselves hiking up beside the waterfall at mid-center on route to Simpson Ridge which is out of sight to the right here.]


[Looking back at Eric as we pass through the fairly rustic Porcupine Campground.]

 

After passing through the campground we continued on trail towards the Mount Assiniboine core area, noting the dire warning on the signpost regarding the Simpson River Trail to the Surprise Creek cabin which is likely an extreme understatement after the Verdant Creek wildfires of 2017. Only about 500m up the trail we came on another sign marking our right hand turnoff towards Police Meadows. Now things were finally getting exciting! We turned onto the much smaller trail leading south. It didn't take long for us to figure out that our destination is not part of the "core" park when we got to the Simpson River and realized that there's no bridge over it! Thank goodness the river is a tiny little stream at this point and someone had cut and partially trimmed a tree just upstream of the trail that we put to good use. From this crossing to the meadows, we were on a good trail again.

 


[Just past the Porcupine Campground at a fork in the Simpson River Trail.]


[The lovely, well forested Simpson River Trail.]


[The trail gets even smaller with the junction towards Police Meadows.]


[You know you're on the trail less traveled when this is your bridge! Note how tiny the Simpson River is at this point.]


[The trail to the meadows is maintained and in excellent shape. It also gains some height from valley bottom.]

 

Soon we were done the forested section of trail and found ourselves facing a pretty daunting wall of shrubs and scrub at the start of what we assumed must be the Police Meadows. From a distance the meadows looked like a golf course, but of course being the BC backcountry, this could mean anything from grass to Krummholtz to shrubs or even dense avalanche debris. We entered the overgrown area with caution - our feet were still dry at this point. The trail was obvious for about another 150m before we arrived at a grassy, swampy area and the trail pretty much vanished underfoot. Hmmm. This was not entirely unexpected but was a bit more rustic than we were hoping for! We danced around and looked for other options but eventually we simply started wading the marsh towards where we hoped the cabin was. We knew it was off to our right from the photos the week previous but there was still no sign of it as we waded through knee deep water and wet vegetation. Soon we found ourselves at yet another obstacle - a deep flowing creek cut a channel in front of us, blocking further travel towards the west side of the meadows and the cabin we assumed was somewhere there. In what was to be a bit of a theme for the weekend, we got lucky with navigation and happened to find another log bridge. This one was substantially smaller than the one across the Simpson River but was carved flat on top so obviously manmade. We very cautiously made our way across it - a slip would mean total submersion in the deep stream running under it, not a death sentence, but it would certainly soak all the gear on our backs.

 


[Our first impression of the meadows isn't great. Believe it or not, we're still on "trail" here! It gets much worse before it gets better.]

 
[There's a very faint outline of a trail at the start of the meadows which soon pretty much disappeared. The cabins are nowhere visible yet.]


[A bit of "suck" as we are forced to wade up to knee-deep in a marshy swamp.]


[This might look easy - but when it's your turn to balance across with a waist-deep stream underneath it becomes a bit more of a challenge.]

 

After the stream crossing, we followed a very faint track through drier meadows until finally we spotted our prize! To our great astonishment, and if I'm honest about it, disappointment, we saw smoke curling out of the very rustic cabin's chimney stack and realized we were not going to be alone in this lovely place. I shouldn't have been so surprised on hindsight. Nothing is "hidden" anymore with all the online beta and information available. On hindsight the shocking thing about the Police Meadows is that there's been no clear beta on it up to this point. We slowly walked across the meadows, noting that some of the plants looked to be recently dying. The view of the homestead era cabins with Simpson Ridge and Nestor Peak looming over them up a deep wild mountain valley was pretty spectacular and got the explor8ion juices flowing pretty fierce!

 

 
[Looking back at Eric (R) from the expansive and beautiful Police Meadows. Citadel Pass at center distance with Golden Mountain above at right. ++]


[Looking past the main cabin to the extremely rustic second one and further up valley towards Nestor Peak. This is the valley we're going to use to tackle Simpson Ridge and Peak. ++]

 

As we approached the cabin, the front door swung open and we were greeted by a surprised but very friendly guide-outfitter (Greg) who happened to be in the area to treat the invasive Tall Buttercup plants that we'd seen dying in the meadows. Apparently as part of the deal to operate his hunts and operate the cabin in the park he has to treat the area for this plant which animals will not eat due to its toxicity. The outfitter had a friend along to assist him and they were flying out via chopper the next day. I think they were quite surprised to see us, but were extremely gracious and nice about us interrupting the very peaceful week they'd been enjoying in this little corner of paradise. Now before you pack your backpack and race off to spend a week at this cabin, I must infuse this report with some bits of reality which you should carefully consider before traveling and spending time here;

 

  1. This cabin is very rustic. The bunks are handmade from trees and the padding is worn and full of holes that have been chewed by animals. The chimney leaks. The floor is full of holes and very dusty / dirty. There are mice. There are pack rats. There are other animals. The door doesn't lock and doesn't even close all the way. Did I mention mice and pack rats? 
  2. There are a ton of biting flies and mosquitoes in this wet and marshy landscape and remember - the door doesn't shut all the way! I'll let you imagine what that means for sleeping or even just sitting in the cabin.
  3. There are definitely bears around - and remember there's no way to lock that door from the inside! To be honest, I'm a bit surprised that the place hasn't been destroyed by bears or other animals yet.
  4. There's no guarantee that you won't come to a full cabin. It only sleeps 5 or 6. This means turning back through the swamp and camping at the Porcupine Campground back down the valley - in other words you can not count on staying at the cabin and must pack a tent and all camping gear anyway.
  5. The second cabin is a surprise as all park material only mentions the one. There's a reason for this. Unless you're really, really desperate you will not sleep in the second cabin. The two hikers that approached while we were on Simpson Ridge apparently took one look and hiked all the way back to the Porcupine Campground rather than stay in the second cabin. It's a hole-in-the-ground - you can't even stand upright in it and it is overrun with critters and not at all "patched up" like the main cabin is.

 


[Fresh water runs continuously out of this hose which runs up the mountainside behind the cabin to a freshwater spring.]


[The cabin is cozy enough, but very rustic compared to many backcountry cabins you might be used to. The bunks are handmade and don't inspire a lot of confidence. The mice / rats have done a lot of chewing and there are holes everywhere including the walls. Phil slept with one eye open on the large hole right by his face! surprise]


[There is a certain homestead "charm" here which harkens back to a previous time but when the mosquitoes and flies start coming through the door at night, the "charm" disappears pretty quickly and is replaced by reality.]


[The outhouse. Oh yeah, this door doesn't lock anymore either...]

 
[The main cabin with the ridge we used to access Nestor Peak rising beyond and Golden Mountain at distant left. ++]

 

After the 15.5km, 500m height gain and over 850m of height loss involved with our 4 hour approach, it wasn't easy to tear ourselves away from the comfort at the cabin and the very interesting conversations we were having with Greg and his friend. By now it was around 13:00 and the sun was quite warm. The mosquitoes around the meadows were also getting bad which helped us move on. When we told the outfitters what we were planning, we got a bit of a blank stare. "I'm tired just thinking about it", was one of the responses. Another was, "we don't hunt up that valley", negating our odds of finding a nice trail up there! There wasn't much else to do except strap our packs on and head south.

 

Simpson Ridge / "Mount Edmonton"

 

As we headed south, up valley from the Police Meadows, I was struck by how Phil Richards and myself plan and carry out these sorts of adventures. It's a little bit nuts if I really think about it! Simply by looking at a distant valley and estimating the angle of slopes from topo maps and Google Earth, we were willing to hiking many kilometers and many hundreds of meters of elevation to "get our noses into it", despite have no clue about whether or not any of the routes we were planning would actually work or not. I love it, but this sort of thing is not for the faint of heart. Even being conservative had us doing ~2,000m of height gain two days in a row, with at least 35km each day, including BC bushwhacking, possible glacier or steep snow ascents and certainly having to deal with unknown terrain issues along the way. Phil and I have been on some long trips already in 2018, including a 42km bike 'n scramble into Mount Currie / White Man Pass but Eric hadn't been on a mountain trip since December 2017! I think he might have underestimated the effort a bit. cheeky But Eric is Eric and I've known him a long time. He is a very mentally tough hombre and doesn't give up easily as he would clearly demonstrate on this trip.

 


[Oh my! This is the very start of the valley south of Police Meadows. Not much of a trail going on here.]

 

Immediately upon hiking past the dilapidated second cabin, we realized that there was really no trail or even path leading up valley towards our planned ascent routes for Nestor and Simpson Ridge. We were in for it. Big time. Us, being us, this didn't really phase us or even slow us down for some reason. Instead we got excited about the notion of adventuring and exploring a valley that obviously hadn't seen very many creatures of our ilk. The first avalanche slope wasn't too bad but by the time we hit the second or third one we were deep in the "suck" and starting to wonder how much adventuring we were really in for!

 


[The first few avalanche slopes aren't horrible.]


[Things ratchet up a bit.]


[The stream running down the center of the valley is energetic and wide in places.]

 

We realized pretty quickly that our feet would continue to be soaked as we navigated up and through the stream running down the middle of our approach valley. It simply wasn't feasible to keep them dry or avoid water up to shin deep. We could see the terrain narrowing ahead and started to worry about steep canyons and waterfalls that could prove very difficult to navigate around. There was a strange route line on my Gaia base map which certainly didn't correspond to a trail or even a track, but it did make some sense to try following it up to climber's right to get around the steep, narrowing terrain ahead of us in the valley bottom. I led up a small but lively stream coming down a steep avy slope leading up to our right (west) a short way, before starting a long and challenging traverse in the forest towards the drainage we were planning to use to access the upper part of the mountain. This is where the difficulties ratcheted up a notch.

 


[Deviating out of the main valley below and heading for a traverse above it to avoid possible terrain issues.]


[The terrain is steep, covered in alders and shrubs up to 7 feet tall and full of old and new avalanche debris.]


[Not everyone is cut out for this type II fun. It's not easy and remember - there's absolutely ZERO guarantees that our planned route will even result in a summit at the end of all the suffering.]

 

Our traverse above the valley floor was a lesson in BC bushwhacking and route finding patience and grit. Phil did an admirable job with his first real BC bushwhack and Eric and I settled into the familiar routine of crawling up and over avalanche debris, scratching shins, arms and faces on sharp, random branches and wading uphill and side-hill through, over and across dense shrubs, alders and Krummholtz trees - we've done this more than once. Bushwhacking in BC is a lesson that teaches you a lot about yourself and can be used later in life. You learn to be one with the bush, moving carefully, slowly and deliberately and not trying to brute force your way through. If you don't force yourself to slow down and get very patient and deliberate with your movements, you will spike your heart rate way over 160bpm and will burn out almost immediately. If your heart doesn't explode, your mind will. Everything is about s l o w i n g  d o w n

 


[Learning once again to slow down and be "one with the bushes".]


[Finding small open areas is like finding precious treasure - the pace quickens and smiles appear.]

 

After an hour and a half of bushwhacking we finally turned up a side valley to the west, heading for a distant waterfall and drainage that would hopefully give us easy access to the peak from the SE. So far our route was as good as it could have been but I think we might have made life harder on ourselves than necessary as we scouted out the best way around the beautiful waterfall we were slowly approaching. It took a while but soon enough we were under the falls, a lovely atmosphere of sparkling water, backlit by the summer sun and surrounded by steep walls of rock and Krummholtz trees plastered on impossibly steep avalanche slopes.

 


[The waterfall beckons from afar. There's a lot more hardship to go before we get to enjoy it though.]


[The problem with avalanche debris and trees on avalanche slopes is that they all lean downhill. This means when you're going uphill, you not only have to clamber up and over and through the tangled mess, but it's actually conspiring against you - literally acting as a medieval spike defense.]


[Remnant patches of avalanche snow helped on some sections.]


[The lovely waterfall and its charming atmosphere made us forget our predicament and tired bodies and minds for a few minutes.]


[It's moments like this that keep me exploring the Rockies lesser known peaks and valleys.]

 

As we gazed at the terrain around the waterfall, we noted two options. The first was the most attractive - a series of steep slabs and loose rock along it's left hand side. Yes - that was the more attractive side! The right hand side didn't look very inviting thanks to a thick field of Krummholtz and some barely visible rocky cliffs embedded within. So why did we choose the right hand option? I'm not 100% sure, to be honest. Slabs are always tricky to gage from below for difficulty, often looking much easier than they are. The weather was starting to turn a bit ugly and with pending rain or sleet we thought the loose rock / slab could quickly escalate beyond scrambling so we chose the slope we knew would work technically, even though it was going to be a bit hellish. It was indeed, not a very heavenly slog from the bottom of the waterfall to treeline! Firstly we scrambled difficult cliffs to get into the bottom of the messy, stunted, hellish forest and then we waded, pushed, struggled, sweated, swore and stumbled our way up to treeline. Did I mention that it started to sleet and rain about half way up? Not cool folks. Not cool at all. These are the moments that make you wonder what the hell you're doing.

 


[There are no signs of the pending weather moving in as we ascend beside the falls and look back over our approach valley.]


[We started with a rising traverse along a lower cliff band to access the upper Krummholtz forest.]


[Entering the suck now. Big time. But it's not raining yet!!]


[Eric comes up the slope behind me in the rain. I had to put my camera away as the thick Krummholtz forest was damaging it so I used my iPhone for these shots.]


[Great rejoicing by everyone, as we finally clear the hellish forest of stunted devil trees and gaze up at our distant summit looking fairly accessible from this angle!]

 

As we broke treeline and desperately peered towards the distant apex of our objective, we were extremely happy to note that all of our suffering and efforts to this point would very likely not be in vain. There were several route options that looked reasonable, so naturally we chose the most direct and difficult one. :rolleyes: Instead of the easiest route which headed to the Simpson Peak / Ridge col, we chose to access steep scree and snow slopes directly under the summit to the SE. We wandered through a larch forest towards our ascent slope, very happy that the rain was clearing off and the sun was peeking back out between the clouds. We took advantage of snow before starting a bit of a scree slog to the summit block above. As we worked our way higher and higher, the views behind us started dimming the bad memories formed on approach. Of course, we were also making sideways glances towards "Simpson Peak" - an unnamed summit between Nestor and Simpson Ridge that is named "Simpson Peak" on some maps.

 

 
[Looking back at our approach (L) and towards our next objective - Simpson Peak - rising at right. ++]

 
[Looking back down a snow slope that we took full advantage of.]


[It's a bit of a grind to gain that summit block! The only reasonable way to crack the summit that we could see from below was a traverse to climber's left (west) along the upper cliffs and snow field.]

 
[Eric and Phil with Nestor Peak at center right and "Simpson Peak" in the foreground right of it.]


[As usual in the Rockies, as we approach the summit block the terrain lays back a bit. It was still at least moderate scrambling to get around the snow on the lefthand side of the summit block but not too hard.]

 

As Phil and I approached the summit block, we could see two viable options. Option 1 was a steep, difficult line straight up to the summit (Eric took this line behind us apparently) and option 2 was a tricky snowfield / rock traverse where we'd tiptoe on top of a pretty deep moat next to the cliffs and on top of a steepish patch of snow. We chose option 2 as it looked easier but either option obviously works. From the tricky traverse we turned right on a wide expanse of scree and excitedly marched up towards the huge summit cairn that is probably shorter now than when it was first built at apparently around 7 or 8 feet tall!

 


[Eric took the obvious split in the summit block with some snow in it. Phil and I traversed around the lefthand side.]


[Incredible colors on the summit ridge of Simpson / Edmonton looking over some of the terrain that the first ascent party took.]


[Looking back over Citadel Pass (C) where we descended from much earlier today.]


[Phil comes up the cliffs behind me as we exit the snow traverse and finish off the moderate section. Our approach at lower right.]

 
[Onto the summit ridge, looking back over our approach at bottom left and over towards Nestor and Simpson Peak at center. Assiniboine rising in the distance and Indian Peak at right.]

 

Right away I noticed a white plastic container in the giant summit cairn. I tried to wiggle it free, but whoever buried it had done an impressive job and I couldn't free it. As yet another passing storm dumped some hard frozen rain pellets on us, Phil and I dismantled the cairn, rock by rock, placing them beside us so we could rebuild it again. As I opened the container I was in for a wee bit of disappointment - it was not Ricks and there was no original 1920 register inside either. Instead we were looking at a multi-page entry from an Edmonton ACC trip from Rock Lake in 2010, who'd apparently also been searching for the elusive original register that Rick had left behind. To skip the following sidebar on the first, second and third ascents of the mountain, click here.

 


Sidebar: A Brief History of Simpson Ridge / "Mount Edmonton"

It was only when we arrived back home and did some research based on a hunch from Eric, that we started uncovering more of the mystery surrounding the first ascent of this peak and the possible third ascent almost 100 years later by the Edmonton chapter of the Alpine Club of Canada. If we would have looked a bit closer at the trip report from Rick we would have noticed that he starts the report as follows (emphasis mine);

 

The Simpson/Edmonton Ridge (9430' or 2874m) runs for 18-20 km from the crook in the Simpson River, where it bends from NE to SE and S, to the final SE slopes of Nub Peak that run down toward Lake Magog.

 

Obviously Rick knew, most likely from the original summit register itself, that the mountain had been dubbed "Mount Edmonton" by the first ascenders, which is why he labels it thus in his online report. By the time he climbed it, however, "Simpson Ridge" was the accepted name and its original moniker was somehow lost to history, buried in a 1921 Alpine Club of Canada Journal for us to rediscover nearly 100 years after it was first published! The name is noted in the article as "not being accepted by the Geographical Board" for whatever reason. Since people nowadays are naming random peaks after their kids or their uncles, I think I'm OK with naming this ridge, "Mount Edmonton" as the first ascentionists wanted. wink The original ascent party ascended a very difficult and complicated route up the NE face of the mountain from the Simpson River Valley and exited back to the Simpson River via almost the exact same line that we used for our approach and exit. 

 

 
[An overview map of the entire length of Simpson Ridge. It makes sense to me to name the entire thing "Simpson Ridge" with the individual peaks named as indicated. Of course this is just MHO but it makes sense to me. The only real change from current maps is to add "Simpson Peak" and "Mount Edmonton" as indicated. Both are separate high points separated by the requisite distance and elevation for a peak and worth scrambling / climbing. ++]

 
[Our route map with the original ascent parties estimated climb (from the North) and exit (to the East). They mention a "lake" on exit so this narrows their exit route down quite a bit. ++]

 
[First ascent trip report - Page 1. ++]

 
[First ascent trip report - Page 2. Note that this photo clearly shows Nestor Peak and Mount Assiniboine in the distance and the summit ridge looking remarkably like ours. ++]

 
[First ascent trip report - Page 3. ++]

 
[First ascent trip report - Page 4. ++]

 

The Edmonton trip is best described by its leader, Ernst M. Bergmann, who wrote up a detailed account of their reasons for doing the trip and the outcome. Mr Bergmann was kind enough to share that trip report and other details of their trip with me, which I have permission to share - so here it is! And despite the very poor photo resolution, I still find the following picture, provided to Mr Bergmann from Rick Collier back in 2010 pretty darn cool.

 


[The original 1920 summit register that Rick Collier found in the giant cairn on top of Simpson Ridge. It's hard to read, but clearly the date is "July 27 1920" and the climbers are from "Edmonton Alberta". In a nice touch, it's written on ACC letterhead and dedicated to "A.O. Wheeler".]


I have to admit that we were a bit disappointed in finding a newer register in the cairn, but we didn't give up hope of also finding Rick's. We continued to look around and peer carefully into all the nooks and crannies and dissemble the cairn further but to no avail. We found out later that the Edmonton team did the same thing as we did. There's two possibilities here. Either someone else came along and took the register (likely) or it vanished (unlikely) or it simply disintegrated (possible). Our disappointment was pretty short-lived when the sun came out again and we realized that we were the 4th or 5th recorded ascent party in the past 100 years to stand on this summit. That realization got us snapping way too many photos again, as we gave nervous glances at our watches and wondered aloud if Simpson Peak was still a possibility. We had some time to roam to the NW summit where there was another, smaller cairn (no register) before trundling all the way back to the SE cairn for a quick break.

 


[Interesting weather as we pop over the summit plateau to great views of Assiniboine (L) to Indian Peak (C) and towards Selkirk and Split Peak (R). ++]

 
[Dreary weather as we crack the summit - but thankfully it's short lived. Looking NW to the lower summit across the very broad summit plateau. Split Peak and Selkirk Mountain at extreme left here. ++]


[Brewster Rock, Lookout Mountain and Mount Howard Douglas (L to R).]


[Hard to believe last weekend we were on both Citadel Peak (foreground) and Quartz Peak / Little Fatigue.]


[Fatigue Mountain.]


[Phil is enjoying himself immensely (!!) as we traverse to the NW summit with the storm racing to the east above us.]


[Verendrye at right with White Tail at center.]


[Mount Shanks with Floe Peak in the distance.]

 
[Wild scenery from the NW summit looking over the colorful north end of Simpson Ridge at left and over the Citadel Pass area at right. ++]


[An outlier of Octopus Mountain - named in 1913 by Robert Daniel McCaw but nobodies sure why he named it that? :)]

 
[Wonderful views as the sky clears again, looking down the face that the 1920 ascent party used and down into the fried Simpson River Valley below.]

 
[Eric on the summit plateau with Mount Ball in the distance. ++]


[Mount Assiniboine looms over Nestor Peak (L) and Simpson Peak (C).]

 
[Views over the Golden Valley towards Golden Mountain and Mount Nasswald at center with Fatigue and Citadel at left. ++]

 
[Views to the south include Nestor, Assiniboine, The Marshall, Watson and Indian Peak (L to R). ++]


[Looking towards Beersheba, Og and Allenby (L to R).]


[Looking over Cave Mountain towards Mount Mercer.]


[Cautley Mountain with Cascade and Gibraltar Rock.]

 
[An interesting view of Mount Sir Douglas rising over The Towers. Also visible is Mount Morrison (L) and Currie (R). ++]


[Nice lighting over Fatigue Pass looking at the Sundance Range.]


[It's getting late so if we're going to nab our second peak of the day, it's time to start heading over to it! "Simpson Peak" is barely visible in front of Nestor Peak at left. Assiniboine and The Marshall continue to steal the show as usual.]

 

The wind was getting quite cold and the day was fading quickly (it was now after 18:00) as we set our sights on the next objective that we'd been scouting a route for since first ascending into the alpine bowl beneath - "Simpson Peak".

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