Summit Elevation (m): 2966
Elevation Gain (m): 1000
Round Trip Time (hr): 6
Total Trip Distance (km): 15
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3 – you fall, you break something
Difficulty Notes: Mostly an easy scramble but with some exposed areas and more difficult with the snow that I had. Winter ascent is possible but introduces avalanche risks.
Technical Rating: SC6; YDS (3rd)
GPS Track: Download
Map: Google Maps
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.
Jimmy Simpson is the only peak out of the ~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 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.
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.
After the cliff band traverse I still had a long way to go. I aimed for the upper col and trudged on. The scree slope steepened 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. The summit looked a long ways off as I approached the col but 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 impressive, 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 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. Teaches me to get creative with return routes.
A highly recommended trip on a day where you want amazing views and a relatively short and easy scramble.