On Friday, 29 Apr 05, Jim Everard and I successfully reached the summit of Mt. Jimmy Simpson under sunny but cool conditions, then enjoyed a moderately pleasurable ski run from the col to the gravel flats below Bow Falls.
As many of you know, Jim lives in Toronto, but seems to get out to Calgary for "business" quite a bit. When he does plan a trip out here, I generally try to hook up with him for some quality peak bagging. This particular trip was no exception. Jim was finished with his meetings on Thursday, and since I typically don't work on Fridays, we decided to climb on Friday, then let Blair catch up to us on Saturday, where we would find another objective.
The main objective for the weekend was Saturday's trip up Mt. Baker, so Friday's trip was more of a scouting trip. Given the warm temperatures from the past week and all of the surface water on Bow Lake from the previous weekend, we were wanting to check out the conditions of Bow Lake as a possible (yet longer) approach to Mt. Baker. We also wanted to position ourselves to get a good view of Peyto Lake and the gravel flats behind that lake. Jimmy Simpson seemed like an objective that could fill both needs.
Jim and I met at the Cochrane turnoff, then carpooled out to Bow Lake, with a brief stop at Lake Louise (Laggans). We anticipated a very short day, so we didn't actually leave the Bow Lake parking lot until 10:00am. I think that's a record for latest departure for me. Anyway, given the recent cold-spell, Bow Lake was once again frozen solid, but pretty glossy. We skied/slid across the lake, only to find very little snow at the back of the lake (in the gravel flats). The creek, which comes out of the canyon and flows into Bow Lake was completely open, so as you come off the lake, you'll want to be on the right (north) side of the lake. Otherwise, you'll find yourself hoping bolders to cross the small creek.
For a shortcut, we decided not to go up the normal Bow Hut approach to the canyon, but go up through the trees closer to the right (detailed in Chic Scott's book). The snowpack was very hardpack and slick, so we just carried our skis up over this hill with minimal boot penetration. From the other side, we worked our way diagonoly up a series of "ramps" until we reached a small, but steep bowl below the Jimmy Simpson col. In progress, we had to cross a couple of major slide paths, which emphasizes the potential danger of the terrain. Even as the sun was shining, the snowpack remained very firm. At times, ski crampons would have been helpful, but obviously not required.
Once in the bowl below the col, we went as far as we could on skins (about 30% of the way up). At that point, Jim elected to leave his skis, while I put mine on my pack and carried them higher. Later, we both agreed that I made the better decision. Once at the col (where I left my skis), the summit was only a few minutes away, but what a slog!!!! I had forgotten how much I hate scree. Once at the summit (4hrs, 30mins later), we had fantastic views all around. Of particular note was that Peyto Lake was definitely frozen, but if we went that way the next day, we'd be carrying our skis from the end of the lake to the research station high on the moraine above the Peyto Glacier. We could not see the canyon leading to Bow Hut, but given that the creek flowing across the the gravel flats was wide open, we had our doubts about the canyon.
We quickly plodded our way back to the col, where I put on my skis and enjoyed a nice steep run back down to Jim's skis. I was sure to rub that in for Jim's benefit. The rest of the descent consists of terrain which is really incredible for skiing. Lots of little 15 degree gullies to go down, little drops here and there. Just a lot of fun. But I can't emphasize enough... an avalanche in this area will sweep you right off a cliff (over the ice climb, Pointless Gully). Unfortunately, our descent was hindered by having to ski down across a couple of avalanche runouts, containing basketball-size avalanche chunks. Other than the avi debris, the descent was fun.
Once back at Bow Lake, we quickly went across the lake, running into another couple on their way to the Hut. They mentioned that the skiing around Peyto Hut was outstanding the day before. So, with the birds-eye view from the summit of Jimmy Simpson, and the first hand account of great skiing, we decided that we'd go after Mt. Baker via the dreaded Peyto Lake approach.
Once back at the car (2hrs 15mins from the summit), we headed down to the Mosquito Creek campground, where we would meet Blair for the next day. Round trip time, including all breaks and summit time was 7hrs.
Part 2 of this weekend will be a separate trip report (Mt. Baker).