Five years ago I tried to conquer Mount Allan and failed. I was too out of shape, I didn’t have enough water, I was wearing clothing that was inappropriate for the hot weather, I started out too late. All sorts of reasons, all sorts of excuses. Yesterday there would be nothing that would stop me, I was determined to take my revenge on the only mountain that has beaten me – so far.
The Sign Says it All – It’s a Long Way to the Top…
I arrived at the Ribbon Creek trailhead just after 8am. From there Tucker the Dog and I would set off on my quest.
The trail starts easy, just a pleasant walk through the woods. Once it starts up, however it really starts up. Before long you reach the site of the old Kovach mine, which now appears as a lovely alpine meadow. Continue onwards and upwards and soon you reach the grassy slopes of Olympic Summit. Here is where the real work begins as an endless series of switchbacks slowly wind up, higher and higher. You gain elevation at quite a clip – just over 5km into the hike and the parking lot is nearly 1000m below you and rapidly disappearing.
Fortunately you get a bit of a break here as you reach a bit of a plateau. You get about 1km of relatively flat walking and you pass some very interesting weather instruments. You pay a bit of a price as you surrender around 50m of elevation, but you are rewarded as you are about to enter the most interesting part of the hike – the rock spires.
End of the plateau and the summit still seems a long way away
Note the hikers just right of centre for a sense of scale
The rock formations keep your interest level up as the hike drags on
My trip through the rocks was made more interesting because I was following a family of hikers and their route finding went a little awry. This meant I had to navigate down some interesting rock walls, some of them a good 2-3m high. Under normal circumstances this wouldn’t be too bad but I also had to get the dog down some of them as well. Other than one leap I wasn’t expecting him to make I didn’t manage too badly, but the return trip yielded a much better route, although it did require some traversing of narrow ledges – the fall would hurt but would be survivable.
Mount Allan does not surrender her summit charms easily. The final summit ascent really tests your lungs and legs as you are forced to gain close to 200m of elevation over the last 600m or so. Considering you are already a good 8km into the hike at this point (with a net ascent of ~1100m) you need to have saved some reserves for this final push.
Once at the top the views are amazing. Wind Mountain and Mount Lougheed dominate the view to the west but there is something to see in every direction. There was a slight breeze which was nice because the sun was beating down relentlessly on me at this point. I had used most of our water supply just reaching the summit – apparently 6L was not enough for both man and dog.
My trip to the summit clocked in at almost 9km and took me a little over four hours to complete. I only spent 20 minutes at the summit before opting to start the long trek back to the car. If I had done some better planning I would have tried to either stage a car or arrange a ride and hiked out by following the other ridge down to Deadman’s Flats.
I was forced to cut off the dog’s water supply as I only had a little over half a litre left for the descent. Even by carefully rationing my supply I was still empty with 4km left in the hike. The descent is ever bit as brutal as the trip up since the steep angles means you are constantly struggling to avoid slipping. My descent time was only slightly better than my ascent, clocking in at 3 hours and 20 minutes.
At one point I was atop a steep section and I lost my footing. As I swung around to recapture my balance my camera case swung around and detached from my backpack and tumbled down the hillside. I completely lost sight of it and, looking at the tangle of rocks and trees below, I assumed it was gone forever. It was "”only” my point and shoot Panasonic but I was never the less peeved. I wasn’t even going to look as I figured the search would be futile.
As the dog and I descended he started tugging at the leash and trying to head off trail. I thought he had spotted a squirrel or something so I didn’t pay much attention, but he persisted – more so than normal. I figured “Well, this would be about where the camera landed so maybe I should take a quick look.”
The dog led me along the steep hillside and then suddenly stopped. I tried to pull him along but he stood firm. I bent down to give him a tug and I saw him nipping at something in the thick bush. Sure enough, he navigated me to my camera. I was quite impressed when I turned it on and discovered it still worked!
My Targus camera bag having survived a tumble down the cliff
There is no water until you get back to the parking lot, so both the dog and I celebrated our success by drinking out of Ribbon Creek (24 hours later and no beaver fever for me…) and soaking ourselves to cool down. Hey, no one said revenge would be easy!
Mount Allan is advertised as being the highest maintained trail in Canada. Well, it is very well marked and easy to follow, even in the sections where multiple braids provide a variety of routes. It provides a tremendous workout, wonderful scenery and opportunities for some hands-on scrambling. It isn’t an easy hike by any means and I’m not planning a return trip anytime soon but it is certainly one you should put on your “must do” list.