Mount Allan Traverse – Kananaskis – Hiking Alberta

 

Mount Allan hosts Nakiska Mountain Resort in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.

 

The objective is the hike across the summit of Mount Allan, beginning at Dead Man's Flats in the Bow Valley Corridor, and ending 23.3 kilometers and nearly a gross vertical mile later at Ribbon Creek in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada. There is no way to predict the weather may increase the challenge significantly.

 

 

 

The hike will unfold over a long, arduous and aggressive day.  For one of this team of three, there is a birthday about to become forever memorable.

 

Day 1 – On Sunday, A short hike on the south side of Mount Allan to Coal Mine Scar will help prepare for the following day's challenging adventure.

 

The purpose of this preliminary hike is threefold.

  • First, there is a need to rent and deliver a car to the Ribbon Creek parking area to be left overnight for return transportation at the end of the major hike on the following day.
  • Second, it will help acclimatize my son and daughter-in-law to higher altitude.  They reside at about 800 ft of elevation in Toronto, Ontario.  The next day we will be spending a major portion of the day between 8,000 and 9,500 ft. (2,438 and 2,896 m) above sea level.  The small preliminary mission also helps to create a mental image for the subsequent significant hiking mission.
  • And finally, there is a requirement to stash a supply of water and electrolyte part way up the mountain at Coal Mine Scar for consumption near the end of descent the following day.

 

Following an early breakfast, two cars are driven mid-morning to the Ribbon Creek parking area in Kananaskis Country.  The hike on Hidden Trail proceeds through the old remains from The Kananaskis Coal Company which operated from the turn of the century to 1952

The long-abandoned cabin housed a mining family on one of many coal-carrying roads leading into Coal Mine Scar.  This surface mining operation was a subsidiary of Martin Nordegg's Brazeau Collieries in Nordegg, Alberta, Canada.

 

 

Mount Allan – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The Hidden Trail has been discovered

 

Mount Allan – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The old miners cabin on the way to Coal Mine Scar

 

Mount Allan – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Grassy fields at Coal Mine Scar overlooking Kananaskis Valley

 

Mount Allan – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Beautiful flowers along the Mount Allan trail

 

Mount Allan – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Mountain views expand as elevation is gained

 

The huge open-pit mine was filled in after closure.  Today Coal Mine Scar is a large, prominent, grassy triangle on the south-east slope of Mount Allan below Olympic SummitNakiska Mountain Resort occupies the north-east slope. 

Lunch is enjoyed on the grassy, golden slopes of Coal Mine Scar before returning on the final stretch of the Centennial Ridge Trail constructed in 1966 and 1967 by the Rocky Mountain Ramblers to celebrate Canada’s 1967 Centennial Year.  Their dedication and effort created an outstanding landmark trail for subsequent generations of hikers.

 

The Centennial Trail Hike


 

Day 2 – On Monday the drive west proceeds to the trail-head near Dead Man's Flats for a hiking start at 8:30 AM.  Elevation gain is gradual through forest for several kilometers with occasional, spectacular views of 7,700 ft (2,347 m) Pigeon Mountain

At rest stops, wind whistles through the tops of trees above us and there is concern this may become an issue at higher elevation on Centennial Ridge.  Following a rest stop in a spectacular sub-alpine meadow, where we can see the summit of Mount Allan far in the distance, a climb of 10 steep switchbacks followed by a short easy scramble lead to the top of Centennial Ridge North.  Breathtaking, high-altitude views of adjacent Mount Lougheed, Canmore, and surrounding mountains consume the scope of vision.

 

Mount Allan – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

Mount Allan – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Rising above the valley between Mount Allan and Mount Collembola

 

Mount Allan – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Flowers hanging from rock walls on the scramble steps to the top of Centennial Ridge

 

Mount Allan – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada A view from Centennial Ridge towards Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Mount Allan – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada At the summit and looking along Centennial Ridge South, the descent route

 

The Centennial Ridge hike offers the better part of 10 kilometers (6¼ miles) at high altitude between the ascent on the north ridge to the summit and the descent along the south ridge.  The hike will also battle powerful winds, gusting continuously between 20 (12½ mph) and 80 (50 mph) kilometers per hour.  The gusting, multi-directional wind is challenging and will build exhausting momentum throughout the day.

Our primary mission on this mountain today is spiritual.  The motivating purpose for the hike is the intent to honor people in our lives who have recently passed.  Paying respect and condolence to the friends and family they have left behind will remain at the summit by our placement of laminated photos of the dearly departed inside cairns at the summit. 

Although the views are spectacular, the wind discourages a longer stay.  The tiniest hiker is battling the powerful winds by getting low to the ground and trying desperately to prevent ear muffs from blowing away.  Ear plugs are mandatory.  The wind is blowing the big hikers around as well making it occasionally difficult to remain vertical.

 

Mount Allan – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada A view back towards the north Centennial Ridge

 

Mount Allan – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Mountain views across the south ridge from the top of Mount Allan

 

Mount Allan – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Capturing the traditional 360 degree video from the summit of Mount Allan

 

 

 

Mount Allan – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Mount Lougheed from the top of Mount Allan - a constant companion up the north Centennial Ridge

 

Mount Allan – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Descending on the south side from the summit of Mount Allan in the background

 

Mount Allan – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Marmots galore in the Rock Garden and the Mushroom Garden

 

Mount Allan – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada A view of Memorial Lakes tucked under Ribbon Peak and Bogart Tower at the end of Mount Lougheed

 

The hike proceeds rapidly down and across the south ridge in high, dangerous winds before descending the steep south slope below Olympic Summit with Coal Mine Scar as a clear beacon below us.

 

Mount Allan – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Rock Towers in The Mushroom garden on south Centennial Ridge

 

Mount Allan – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Memorial Lakes from the Mushroom Garden on Centennial Ridge of Mount Allan

 

Mercifully, back in the relative quiet of the forest, a good portion of the hidden stash of water, pop and PowerAde is consumed prior to completing the descent to the parking area for an 8:15 PM finish. 

The 45 KM (28 mile) drive proceeds from Ribbon Creek parking to Dead Man's Flats for retrieval of the second vehicle and arrival at home in Calgary by 10:30 PM.  This long, rugged day is a character builder but the mission is accomplished. The adverse conditions will make the character builder an indelible memory and a source of perpetual recollection.

The birthday is celebrated at a local Calgary restaurant the following day.  

The long, tough and challenging hike required reaching deeper and further into physical, mental and emotional resources than ever before.  The process strengthens the person and cements the resolve.

 

 

 

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Comments

Mount Allan's summit from either direction is an outstanding experience. The Centennial Ridge trail, built by the Rocky Mountain Ramblers for Canada's Centenial was a huge contribution. The high altitude trail is wedged between Mount Collembola and massive Mount Peter Lougheed. I hope you enjoy your journey and I thank you for your comment D. As you well know, a special relationship is established when we create the opportunity to accept nature as part of our existence.

Memorable post Barry. I found this wandering through your archives and doing some searches. This traverse is on my list as well. Thanks for this trip report and for your thoughtful comments in it, especially the last ones... DSD

Hi Barry, I am not an advanced hiker, but I did the south approach back and forth in 10 hours(6hrs to the top and 4hrs back). I would like to do the north to south, but I wounder how much time I need for that. I see you did it in about 12 hrs. Can you break down how long it took you from north to top and from top to south? Thanks

Your time for the south approach seems high. The traverse is a more aggressive day with a vehicle at each end.  The north access is long.  Breaking down the time would be of no benefit with all the variables involved.  Suggestion:  Hike the north access to the scramble and return then add that to the knowledge gained from your south summit experience.  Pick a fair weather day.  Your due diligence will include full analysis of distance and elevation for each component.  Plan for a full day.  Fairly certain two partners is a good idea.  Long awesome hike at significant elevation.  It is not important to do it.  It is very important to enjoy it eventually.

Really enjoy your blogs. Keep them coming. Was it really necessary to stash water at coal mine scar?

Rather than carry all we needed, we chose to divide the supply and carry less for the bulk of the trip.  It was also part of the plan to hike Coal Mine Scar on the previous day to the main event to acclimatize Toronto hikers unaccustomed to the altitude and terrain.  It could be done differently but on this high wind, hot day traverse hike, the stash including electrolyte looked awfully good when we got there and was a motivator on the descent from the summit.  I would call it optional, James.  It is fairly easy to calculate the fluid requirement.  There are no dependable water sources across the top of Mount Allan.

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