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.
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 Summit. Nakiska 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.
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.
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.
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.