Mount Jimmy Simpson

Elevation: 2966 m
Elevation Gain: 1017 m
First ascended in 1897 by George Baker (for whom nearby Mount Baker is named), Mount Jimmy Simpson rises sharply above Bow Lake and Num-Ti-Jah Lodge. The peak was named posthumously in 1973 in honor of Jimmy Simpson (1877 – 1972). Simpson was a well-respected guide (in the summer) and trapper (in the winter). In 1920, he leased 5 acres of land on the shores of Bow Lake and built a small log cabin (Num Ti Jah Lodge) there to support his outfitting business. The construction of the Icefields Parkway connecting Lake Louise to Jasper during the Great Depression brought increased traffic to Bow Lake and, by 1937, Num Ti Jah Lodge required a major expansion resulting in the construction of the current red-roofed building. After this time, the much smaller original lodge became Simpson’s private residence where he remained until his death in 1972. The summit of Mount Jimmy Simpson, surrounded by the grand peaks of the Wapta Icefield provides an ideal location to reflect on his words: “There is absolutely nothing in the city to give us the same feeling as the great, mysterious things of nature even though they be stone and ice. It is only among them that we feel the utter helplessness and insignificance of ourselves.”
My Ascents:
July 13 2013

A couple of years ago, my parents hosted their niece’s then-13 year old son Jarrett from Winnipeg for a week over the summer. In an effort to show off the beautiful Rockies to him, we all spent the day together on the pleasant hike up Mount St. Piran in Lake Louise. Suffice to say, he loved the experience and has talked about coming back to Calgary and the mountains ever since. It’s now 2 years later and a 15 year old Jarrett has managed to earn himself another summer trip out west. With the aim of giving him a more remote and wild scrambling experience, Brianne and I decided to take him up infrequently ascended Mount Jimmy Simpson high over beautiful Bow Lake.

Bow Lake provides a stunning starting point for this particular scramble which, oddly enough, is not described in any guide book!

The route follows the well-marked hiking trail along the north shore of Bow Lake (from Num Ti Jah Lodge) to Bow Falls at the base of the Bow Glacier.

Brianne and Crux make their way along the fledgling Bow River en route to the falls.

Near the falls, a wide-open rocky plain grants a view of our ascent route up grassy, sometimes treed ledges from lower left to upper right. We ascended just above the lower patch of trees nearest to Brianne in this photo and gained the higher treed ledge using the steep grassy, boulder-covered slope on the right. On descent, we ended up coming all the way down this same higher ledge regaining the Bow Falls trail using the treed slope on the far left. The scrambling possibilities amongst the various ledges are many and you can make the scramble as technically easy or difficult as you want. Importantly, there is an easy way through the ledges without requiring any significant use of hands so you shouldn’t end up on difficult terrain unless you want to!

Jarrett avoids the easy grass in favor of scrambling near Bow Falls. By the end of the day, he was quite keen to stay on softer grass whenever possible!

The distant summit of Mount Jimmy Simpson comes into view as we work our way up the lower grassy ledge.

Some hands-on scrambling for Jarrett (and some bushwhacking for Brianne) as we gain the higher of the ledges.

As you gain elevation, the terrain steepens and the ledges get narrower. Here Jarrett sits carefully atop a small perch.

Eventually, the ledges deposit you in a beautiful open alpine basin below Mount Jimmy Simpson (summit on the right). There was still a reasonable amount of snow present up here, which proved useful for luring Crux up the mountain! From here, the route travels to the back of the basin and ascends steep scree/snow to the col in the center of the photo before ascending gentler scree slopes to the right.

Jarrett takes in the view of Vulture Peak (center) near a small stream in the alpine basin.

Our Manitoban learns to kick steps up the steep snow to the col.

Improving scenery with every meter of elevation gained! From left to right: Crowfoot Mountain, Vulture Peak, Mount Balfour (distant), Mount Olive and tiny, but pointy, St. Nicholas Peak atop the Wapta Icefield. Two colorful tarns which sit atop Jimmy Simpson’s alpine basin also come into view.

From the col, the view to the other side includes beautiful Caldron Lake below Mistaya Mountain (center left) and Mount Barbette (center right).

From the col, it’s just a walk up to the summit…a walk up scree that is.

Iceberg Lake and the top of Bow Falls come into view at the base of the Bow Glacier beyond Portal Peak and Mount Thomson.

Jarrett slogs up the final few meters to the summit with the Peyto Glacier in the background. The expression on his face says it all! ;)

A spectacular view of Bow Lake and the Icefields Parkway from the summit!

Looking south passed Bow Lake towards (from left to right) Mount Andromache, Little Hector, Mount Hector and Bow Peak.

Icefields Parkway panorama showing many of the areas scrambles and including Peyto Lake (left) and Bow Lake (right) below Jimmy Simpson’s summit cornice. Click to see larger.

Icefields scrambles: Mount Weed.

Icefields scrambles: Observation Peak.

Icefields scrambles: Cirque Peak (with Mount Willingdon and Watermelon Peak beyond).

Icefields scrambles: the Dolomites.

Crux taking in the view of Caldron Lake and wondering why it’s starting to snow. The weather proved to be a bit of a “mixed bag”…

The view to the northwest. From left to right: The Peyto Glacier, Mount Baker, Trapper Peak, Peyto Peak, Caldron Lake, Mistaya Mountain and Mount Barbette.

A distant Mount Forbes (the highest peak in Banff National Park) makes an appearance.

Icefields panorama showing Bow Lake, Iceberg Lake and Caldron Lake at the foot of the Wapta Icefield. Click to see larger.

Distant British Columbia peaks through the Portal Peak – Mount Thompson col.

Inclement weather above distant Mount Mummery (as seen beyond Trapper Peak on the left and Peyto Peak – complete with interesting summit pinnacle on the right).

A sliver of Peyto Lake visible to the north along the Icefields Parkway. Caldron Peak and Mount Patterson apparent on the left. Mount Forbes can still be discerned in the distance.

Waterfowl Lake visible to the north below Mount Wilson (and its icefield) and Mount Murchison.

Many-towered Mount Murchison.

Jarrett enjoying his second summit in the Canadian Rockies.

Summit register entries. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that Jarrett is the first-ever 15 year old from Winnipeg to climb Mount Jimmy Simpson! Oddly enough, we were not the first recorded ascent of 2013…that honor belonged to another pair of scramblers who beat us to the summit by 1 hour! As they passed us on their way down, they playfully informed us that “We beat you!”

Brianne and I high above Bow Lake, where we plan to have our wedding photos taken. Why don’t we just take them up here Boss? ;)

Crux collecting snowflakes in his fur.

Bow Lake panorama. From left to right: The Dolomites, Noseeum Mountain, Mount Andromache, Little Hector, Mount Hector, Bow Peak, Bow Crow Peak, Mount Crowfoot, Mount Temple (distant), Vulture Peak, Mount Balfour, Mount Olive, St. Nicholas Peak, Iceberg Lake, the Bow Glacier, Mount Gordon and Portal Peak. Click to see larger.

The source of the Bow River.

Num-Ti-Jah Lodge on the shores of Bow Lake. Our car is a long ways away…

The Lake Louise group beyond Crowfoot Mountain and Vulture Peak.

A distant Mount Temple dwarfs Storm Mountain (far left) and Mount Aberdeen (right).

Mount Daly and distant Mounts Lefroy and Victoria.

Mount Balfour.

Summit shot on top of Mount Jimmy Simpson before heading down. This peak should be worth more than others in Peak Bagger’s Scrabble!

Brianne makes her way down the pleasant scree to the col.

Jarrett makes his way down some unpleasant scree below the col. We avoided the upper-most section of the snow below the col on descent since it was quite steep, very hard and Jarrett didn’t have an ice-axe.

As soon as the slope relented a little bit, however, we quickly got ourselves off the nasty scree and took advantage of a great glissade back down to the alpine basin.

Crux trying to keep up with a glissading Brianne – quite a race! Just look at the intensity on her face!

Jarrett thinking about stabbing the mountain during his first-ever glissade.

Drying out their bums in the sun in the alpine basin.

Jarrett carefully makes his way along one of the narrower grassy ledges on our way back down to Bow Falls.

The ledges proved a little trickier to follow on descent than ascent and we got cliffed out a couple of times. We did, eventually, manage to find easy terrain all the way down. Bow Falls proved to be a welcome sight at the end of a long day!

Evening light on Mount Andromache, Little Hector, Mount Hector, Bow Peak and Mount Crowfoot above Bow Lake provides a scenic end to an awesome day.

Looking back to Mount Thompson (left) and Mount Jimmy Simpson (center) above Num-Ti-Jah Lodge and Bow Lake. Congrats to Jarrett for bagging this awesome peak that so few others make it up!