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Rockies ::  Icefields :: Mt. Jimmy Simpson

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Panoramic view south near the summit of Mt. Jimmy Simpson.  Bow Lake left;  Iceberg Lake far right. Sea of familiar peaks include:  Mt. Hector, Andromache, Bow Peak, Crowfoot Mountain, St. Nicholas/Onion and many others

Abstract

Overall Difficulty

D5

Scramble on ledges with couple of class 2 rock steps.  Awkward and very loose talus slope. Routefinding

Snow Factor

S4

Steep slopes with avalanche potential. Not a popular winter objective; most traffic heads for Bow Hut and Wapta traverse.

Scenery

Spectacular hike around Bow Lake. Magnificent waterfall draining Iceberg Lake.  Panoramic view from the summit including many Icefield peaks, bird-eye view of Bow Lake and Caldron basin.

Trail/Marking

Good

Marked and well-traveled trail for first hour to flats below Bow Falls.  Well cairned route with distinct trail most of the way after

Suggested Time

7-8 hr

If returning the same way.  Add several hours for Iceberg Lake loop

Elevation

Start: 1940 m     Max: 2970m     Total: ~1100m

Round Trip: 20km (if coming back the same way;  for loop return via Iceberg Lake ~25km)

Gear

Full hiking boots, gaiters and poles.  Climbing helmet essential in group (rockfall danger).  GPS helpful

Water

Glacial creeks in valley floor. Small streams draining from shelf below Portal peak.  Snow patches.  Carry 2L

Dog Friendly

Yes

Dogs not recommended if returning via Iceberg Lake because of glacial creek crossings

 

Gallery

Hiking around Bow Lake on well-defined trail to Bow Falls

View back to Bow Lake from glacial flats on west side Glacial basin below Bow Falls. Route heads up to the right Closer view of Bow Falls fed by Iceberg Lake
Bow Falls basin from lower ascent slopes View east to Bow Lake and approach trail from ascent ledges Crux part on the ledges:  brief class 2 rock step Alternate view of the crux

Panoramic view of Bow Lake; Crowfoot Mtn. to the right

Grassy bench above the ledges. Summit is in upper right Rocky basin leading to the col. Very lose talus slope ahead Looking back just below the col; most of ascent route is visible

View on the other side of the col. Unexpected glacial tarn below

Gentle talus slopes above the col.  Summit is ~200m vertical away  Caldron Lake and Mistaya Peak from near the summit Bow Lake and Icefields Parkway from the summit of Mt. Jimmy Simpson

View down on the east side from the summit

Iceberg Lake, Portal Peak and Mt. Thompson from the summit Plateau dotted with tarns below Portal Peak View back to Jimmy Simpson enroute to Iceberg Lake

 

Summary

Mt. Jimmy Simpson is fantastic ascent starting from Bow Lake some 30 minutes north of Lake Louise.  At almost 3000m of altitude, summit offers breathtaking scenery in the heart of the Icefields.  Entire trip is above the treeline offering views right from the start.  Initial part is shared with popular tourist trail to Bow Falls, but rest is still infrequently visited and solitude is likely.  Although not in Scrambles guidebook, route has picked up popularity due to several online reports on Internet.   Technically it is not overly challenging, but it is not a cakewalk either.  There are couple of class 2 rock steps and one very awkward talus slope to content with.  Routefinding on ascent ledges below Portal peak is now less of an issue as cairns mark the easiest way.  Loop return via Iceberg Lake is possible, but more difficult and elevates grade up a notch (D6).  Start early, and pick-up cloudless bluebird day!

 

Hike Bow Falls trail starting from Num-Ti-Jah lodge on north side of Bow Lake.  Good trail leads around the lake, then continues along the flats.  When water is low it is possible (and better) to walk along the flats; otherwise follow trail at edge of forest on the right side.  Past the canyon where mountaineering access to Bow Hut splits across the wedged chokestone to the left, trail descends to glacial valley below Bow Falls.  Ascent route for Mt. Jimmy Simpson is to the right. Don't head up too early though; instead hike towards the falls, then angle right on grassy draw directly below the cliffs. Good trail and cairns develop soon.  Past the brief boulder field, turn left and ascend steep talus slope then continue up following the cairns.  There are many possibilities but again cairns mark the easiest way.  Crux is brief class 2 rock step and probably the only bit you will need to use your hands the entire day. Climb directly (lose) or on the left side around bulging overhang;  it is a bit exposed but rock is more solid.  Past this obstacle cairns lead to lower ledge and onwards towards the summit that is now visible on the horizon, still fair bit away.  Pleasant hiking on meadows leads to boulder field and real crux -- steep and awkward talus slope that must be climbed to the col.  Snow helps here; otherwise easiest is to stick to the right side of seasonal waterfall.  Hiking poles help here.  Rock is lose and in a group there is real danger -- use your climbing helmets, or split into several groups.  Remainder of ascent to the col is much easier and leads quickly to the col. Don't angle right here; it is worth hiking to the col, as views on the other side reveal unexpected and very beautiful tarn that is frozen deep into the summer.  It could be visited, but lower part of the slope is glaciated according to the topo maps.

 

From the saddle summit is 20-30 minutes away. It is hands-in-your-pockets hiking, but there is still ~200m vertical to gain. You won't likely notice as views are simply breathtaking.  There are too many peaks to talk about, but stunning eye-catcher to the north is Caldron Lake and fantastic valley below Mistaya Peak.  From the summit you can also enjoy bird-eye view of Bow Lake over 1000 vertical meters below!  Many tourists drive the Icefields and take photos from the road, but far fewer have the privilege of seeing it from above -- keep this in mind.  Persistent cornice hugs the east side of the summit ridge, so be careful.  Return is the same way, and will take at least an hour less.

 

Optional loop return via Iceberg Lake:

  1. First goal is to reach the 'mid-shelf'. Note fairly large lake that stays hidden most of the ascent.  The easiest way to get there is to leave Jimmy Simpson descent trail when you clear boulder field past steep talus slope and angle up.  It is surprisingly easy and you barely have to use hands at one or two spots. Hoary marmots often frequent this area in summer.
  2. Walk around the lake on left (east) side then continue up small rise around the corner for about 10 minutes. At this point cliffs on the right side have eroded to mere rubble providing access to upper shelf.  Scree is shifting but not as bad as what you just endured on Jimmy Simpson.  You will likely emerge to upper shelf near another pretty tarn sitting in rocky basin to the right side
  3. Continue along the upper shelf in general direction of Iceberg Lake. It will take about an hour to reach the lake from here.  Pocket glacier to the right below Mt. Thompson looks stunning.   Remainder coincides with Iceberg lake trip, so follow directions in that report.  Keep in mind that you will have to fold couple of glacial creeks, and if you have never been to Iceberg Lake before route-finding might be a problem. Way down from the lake is not obvious and nowhere as well cairned as Jimmy Simpson trail.