Mount Jimmy Simpson November 13, 2004

Mountain height:          2,966 m (9,730 ft)
Elevation gain:              1,000 m (or 1,300 m if you take the wrong route like we did)
Ascent time:           
Descent time:                3:20

Round-trip distance:   14 km (or 17 km if you take the wrong route like we did)

Scrambling with Mark.

A bitter, bitter, bitter disappointment - that most accurately sums up our ascent of Mount Jimmy Simpson. We specifically chose this mountain because of its strategic location, situated above Bow Lake and on the eastern edge of the Wapta Icefied, and its potentially stunning summit views. With a high pressure system over the Rockies and a “mainly sunny” forecast, we thought those great summit views were “in the bag”. We should have just stayed at home and stared at a blank sheet of white paper for 10 and a half hours – it would have provided exactly the same experience. Actually, we did get some decent views for a brief period when the skies cleared, and fantastic views or no views – a trip to the mountains is never a waste of time.  

We made our way towards Bow Glacier Falls under cloudy skies, optimistic that they would clear. Almost immediately, we made a navigational error (?): instead of ascending the ramp, as described by Chic Scott in “Summits and Icefields”, we decided to gain the high ridge right away, hoping to get some good views of the Wapta Icefield. The ascent to the ridge, up rockbands and steep, snow-covered terrain, was fun and very interesting, however, we ascended quite a few sections that would have been very problematic to descend. We knew right away that we would need to find a different route for the descent. In retrospect, like Odlum ridge a week earlier, the error was probably a good one: it provided us a more interesting and scenic route to the summit and even if we went the right way, our bleak summit view would have been much the same.

At this point, the sky did in fact clear, giving us our first view of a small section of the spectacular Wapta Icefield and its peaks. Most impressive were Mount St. Nicholas, Mount Thompson, Portal Peak and Crowfoot Mountain. Continuing north along the ridge, we soon came to realize that we were too far west and heading for a separate and unnamed peak that shared a col with Jimmy Simpson. We should have been about 200 metres below our present position in a large drainage that obviously led to the col and Simpson’s summit. Huge, vertical cliffs prevented us from getting down to the drainage and the further we progressed along the ridge the more daunting the cliffs became.  

Eventually we came to the summit block of the unnamed peak, where we had to either try and traverse dangerously steep and snow-covered slopes along its east side or attempt to gain the summit by a longer, but safer traverse around the west side – we chose the west side and after losing some elevation to gain the ridge, slogged up to the summit cairn, where a dismal, cloud-covered view of very little awaited us.

By this time, we had a couple of serious concerns to deal with: 1. we were running out of daylight; 2. we needed to find an easier route down than the one we came up. Making the summit Jimmy Simpson was the last thing on our minds. The only other possible alternate route was to try and gain the col by descending the north ridge of the unnamed peak, and then traversing slopes below, back to the col. All other routes to the col were guarded by steep cliffs. The route turned out to be quite straightforward and soon we were at the col.

With the summit only 20-30 minutes further, we decided to boot up there as fast as we could just in case there was any clearing. A grueling slog up easy slopes and we finally summitted. We didn’t get the clearing we had hoped for and reading the summit register further compounded our frustration and disappointment – almost all the ascents since 1995 were done on perfectly clear days and every entry commented that the summit view was one of the finest in the Canadian Rockies.

We did, thankfully, find the correct route for the descent, but it wasn’t the pushover we thought it would be. A couple of fairly steep snow slopes required crampons, ice axes and caution to descend. The scenery throughout was very pleasant and, of course, as the sun set, the sky also cleared – perfect timing as always?! Despite the weather, a terrific mountain in a spectacular area – we’ll be back!    

Ascending one of the steeper rockbands near the beginning (the fun, but wrong way to go!)


More steep terrain


Nearing the upper ridge 


Mark, on another rockband


The northern most point of the multiple peaks of Crowfoot Mountain


Almost at the ridge, with Portal Peak ahead


Heading along the ridge; the summit of Mount Jimmy Simpson is the peak right of centre; we followed the ridge to the summit block of the unnnamed peak left of centre; from there we had to descend to the col left of unnamed and then ascend gentle slopes to the summit


Looking  south towards Vulture Peak (left), Mount Olive (just right of centre), and Mount St. Nicholas (the small pointed one)  


Approaching the summit block of the unnamed peak


Peyto Peak and the col of unnamed 


Ascending slopes to the summit, from the col of unnamed 


A little clearing; Bow Lake, Crowfoot Mountain and other peaks of Highway 93 south


At the summit cairn of unnamed


At the summit of Jimmy Simpson; a terrible waste of a magnificent view


On the correct route for descent; unnamed at the left and the summit of Jimmy Simpson to the right; the correct route goes right up the centre

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