Summit Elevation (m): 2874
Trip Date: Saturday, July 7, 2018
Elevation Gain (m): 1900
Round Trip Time (hr): 15
Total Trip Distance (km): 31
Quick ‘n Dirty 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.
Technical Rating: SC6; YDS (3rd)
Simpson Peak is in a word – interesting. Maybe not quite 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 ever bothered standing on its crumbling summit. 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!
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. 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.
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 Kruppelholz 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.
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 Kruppelholz 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.
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…