– HikerBob on the summit of Mt Allan –
You can’t use enough superlatives to describe the views on this hike: Spectacular, incredible, astounding, stunning, breathtaking.
The Centennial Ridge/Mt. Allan hike, at 1400 metres(from the north approach)is the most net elevation I’ve ever done. The hike is gruelling enough on its own, but I chose the hottest day of the year to do it, with a temperature of +30 degrees in the mountains. I wish I had chosen to do this hike when I was young and fit, but at my age, I guess it gives a greater sense of accomplishment. I was completely worn out when I finally reached Ribbon Creek, 9 hours after starting out. All worth it, though.
I was lucky to be able to do a one-way trip(total distance 19K), starting from the north trailhead at Dead Man’s Flats and hiking through to Ribbon Creek. Most of the research I did beforehand suggested the short, steep south approach was the most scenic, but now that I’ve seen both sides, I would beg to differ. They are both equally magnificent.
Beginning at the north end also allowed me to have some cover from the hot sun for the first two hours, as it is forested for most of the first 8K, but occasionally opening up to provide glimpses of the Bow valley, Pigeon mountain, the Three sisters, Wind ridge, and Mt. Lougheed.
Now that I’ve completed the hike, I can identify with this quote from Gillean Daffern’s Kananaskis Country Trail Guide: “Not many people do the whole traverse, because it requires two vehicles and a spare pair of feet, knees, hips, etc.” In retrospect, I think it would be easier and more pleasant to descend the north side as it is much more gradual than the steep south side.
The north trailhead is at Dead Man’s Flats near the Banff Gate Mountain Resort. It serves as the beginning point for a number of other hikes including Skogan pass, Pigeon mountain, and Wind ridge.
After climbing for about an hour, there’s an opening in the trees which gives a beautiful view of the Three sisters, Wind ridge and the Bow valley. I could see the Wind ridge trail very distinctly.
If you don’t have the stamina to go all the way to the peak, this could be a very satisfying hike to the 8.5K mark. As you emerge from the trees at 7.5K and 750 metres elevation, you find yourself in a gorgeous meadow(I believe it’s known as the “hanging valley”) between Mt Collembolla and Mt Allan. It’s secluded and peaceful, with lots of flowers, and a good view of the ridge which you’ll be hiking on all the way to the peak.
From the meadow, if you continue on for about 1K and 100 metres elevation, you’ll reach the main ridge and have wondrous views. Eventually you’ll reach a rock band where some agility is required, as you will be required to use hands, feet and knees to pull yourself up about five metres. If you have tender city-boy hands like mine, a pair of leather gloves would help . This might be a good turn-around point for anyone wishing to do a less strenuous hike.
Hiking the final 3k to the pinnacle is along the ridge, and passes over a number of lesser peaks and some outstanding and unusual rock formations. To your left is the valley between Collembola and Allan, where you’ll see four tarns on the valley floor.
I was happy to see Amanda and Tyler lazing about on the summit when I finally reached it. My GPS indicated that I had climbed a net elevation of 1392 metres.(The accumulated elevation for the entire hike was a whopping 1984 metres).
It’s good to have a Gem-trek map along to pick out the various peaks and features. From the top, you can look waaay down and see two of the emerald-green Memorial Lakes. Many years ago on a Calgary Ski Club hike, I remember eating lunch at Memorial lakes and watching with binoculars the hikers waaaay up on the Centennial ridge trail.
I saw a greater variety of flowers on this hike than I did at Sunshine Meadows last week. It seems that you’ll see a new species of flower for every elevation zone you pass through.
If you’re wondering whether to make the complete traverse, I would highly recommend it. You’ll miss out on a lot if you choose to do only an “up-and-back” on one side. While researching trip reports for this hike, I read on the Calgary Outdoor Club’s website this misleading statement: “I’ve decided not to make this hike a one-way traverse of the entire trail as the north-side trail soon plunges into forest.” That was obviously written by someone who didn’t make the spectacular 3K ridgewalk which ensues as you descend the summit onto the north side, nor did they walk through the gorgeous flower-filled hanging valley between the two mountains.
This has to be one of the best hikes ever.