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Simpson Ridge (Mount Edmonton)

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)
GPS Track: Download
Mapwhat3words


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.

Rick Collier

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 CitadelFatigue 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 Krumholtz in the rain on a 40 degree slope!

Clouds billowing over the shoulder of Quartz Hill.
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.
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.

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. I must warn you – this is a long trip report – just like the trip itself so settle in with a good cup of your favorite bevvy and make sure you have the time and energy to deal with the rest of this tome. 🙂


Police Meadow – Approach and Cabins

Read all about our approach and the mysterious Police Meadow / Cabins in a separate report.


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 in Police Meadow, but it was now 13:00 and daylight hours were getting on. There wasn’t much else to do except strap our packs on and head out of the back of the cabin area towards the valley beckoning beyond.

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 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. 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.

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.

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.

The bushwhacking starts as “stream” whacking.
Working our way up tangled avalanche slopes.

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 Kruppelholz 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

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 Kruppelholz trees plastered on impossibly steep avalanche slopes.

The problem with ascending avalanche slopes is that everything bends INTO you.
The lovely waterfall and its charming atmosphere made us forget our predicament and tired bodies and minds for a few minutes.

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 Kruppelholz 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.

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.

Entering the suck now. Big time. But at least it’s not raining. YET…

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!

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.

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.


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.

Rick Collier

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 ascensionists wanted.  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.
Our route map with the original ascent parties estimated climb (from the North) and exit (to the East).

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


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. 

Eric navigates the massive summit plateau on Simpson Ridge with Mount Ball at distant right.
Looking across the Simpson River Valley towards Citadel Pass and the Sunshine Meadows.
Mount Assiniboine looms over Nestor Peak (L) and Simpson Peak (C).
A panorama over the giant summit plateau showing the Simpson River Valley far below at right. Find Eric.

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“.

Simpson Ridge
62 photos
Oh my! This is the very start of the valley south of Police Meadows. Not much of a trail going on here.
Oh my! This is the very start of the valley south of Police Meadows. Not much of a trail going on here.
The first few avalanche slopes aren't horrible.
The first few avalanche slopes aren't horrible.
Things ratchet up a bit.
Things ratchet up a bit.
Things ratchet up a bit.
Things ratchet up a bit.
The stream running down the center of the valley is energetic and wide in places.
The stream running down the center of the valley is energetic and wide in places.
Deviating out of the main valley below and heading for a traverse above it to avoid possible terrain issues.
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.
The terrain is steep, covered in alders and shrubs up to 7 feet tall and full of old and new avalanche debris.
The terrain is steep, covered in alders and shrubs up to 7 feet tall and full of old and new avalanche debris.
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.
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.
Learning once again to slow down and be "one with the bushes".
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.
Finding small open areas is like finding precious treasure - the pace quickens and smiles appear.
The waterfall beckons from afar. There's a lot more hardship to go before we get to enjoy it though.
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.
The problem with avalanche debris and trees on avalanche slopes is that they all lean downhill.
Remnant patches of avalanche snow helped on some sections.
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.
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.
It's moments like this that keep me exploring the Rockies lesser known peaks and valleys.
It's moments like this that keep me exploring the Rockies lesser known peaks and valleys.
It's moments like this that keep me exploring the Rockies lesser known peaks and valleys.
There are no signs of the pending weather moving in as we ascend beside the falls and look back over our approach valley.
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.
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!!
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.
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!
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!
Looking back at our approach (L) and towards our next objective - Simpson Peak - rising at right.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Eric took the obvious split in the summit block with some snow in it. Phil and I traversed around the lefthand side.
Eric took the obvious split in the summit block with some snow in it. Phil and I traversed around the lefthand side.
Looking back over Citadel Pass (C) where we descended from much earlier today.
Looking back over Citadel Pass (C) where we descended from much earlier today.
Incredible colors on the summit ridge of Simpson / Edmonton looking over some of the terrain that the first ascent party took.
Incredible colors on the summit ridge of Simpson / Edmonton looking over some of the terrain that the first ascent party took.
Mount Assiniboine.
Mount Assiniboine.
Phil comes up the cliffs behind me as we exit the snow traverse and finish off the moderate section. Our approach at lower right.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
Hard to believe last weekend we were on both Citadel Peak (foreground) and Quartz Peak / Little Fatigue.
Fatigue Mountain.
Fatigue Mountain.
Phil is enjoying himself immensely (!!) as we traverse to the NW summit with the storm racing to the east above us.
Phil is enjoying himself immensely (!!) as we traverse to the NW summit with the storm racing to the east above us.
Mount Shanks with Floe Peak in the distance.
Mount Shanks with Floe Peak in the distance.
Verendrye at right with White Tail at center.
Verendrye at right with White Tail at center.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Eric on the summit plateau with Mount Ball in the distance.
Mount Assiniboine looms over Nestor Peak (L) and Simpson Peak (C).
Mount Assiniboine looms over Nestor Peak (L) and Simpson Peak (C).
Mount Assiniboine.
Mount Assiniboine.
Views over the Golden Valley towards Golden Mountain and Mount Nasswald at center with Fatigue and Citadel at left.
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).
Views to the south include Nestor, Assiniboine, The Marshall, Watson and Indian Peak (L to R).
ooking towards Beersheba, Og and Allenby (L to R).
ooking towards Beersheba, Og and Allenby (L to R).
Looking over Cave Mountain towards Mount Mercer.
Looking over Cave Mountain towards Mount Mercer.
Cautley Mountain with Cascade and Gibraltar Rock.
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).
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.
Nice lighting over Fatigue Pass looking at the Sundance Range.
"Simpson Peak" is barely visible in front of Nestor Peak at left. Assiniboine and The Marshall continue to steal the show as usual.
"Simpson Peak" is barely visible in front of Nestor Peak at left. Assiniboine and The Marshall continue to steal the show as usual.

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