Hiking Centennial Ridge with Heidi & Pat marks the last stage of our Peru training: a long, high ridge with some scrambling-climbing and some definite inclement weather. It was the final test, and a wonderful day out with great friends. This ridge marks the most elevation gain we’ve done so far in a hike, with close to 1,500m (or 4,921 feet) straight up.
We hiked a little over 19km, starting at the north end near Pigeon Mountain where the trail ascended up a long fire road, for about 5km in the forest. We hoofed it up there as quickly as we could, knowing the rain was headed our way.
Once we got up to the ridge itself, it was spectacular. There were long views of Mount Lougheed, Windtower, and Sparrowhawk mountains… places we’ve explored already, giving us yet another perspective of these impressive summit landscapes. We even saw the Ribbon Creek Valley from yet another angle (it was the valley we’d peered down on with our hikes to Guinn’s Pass and the Buller/North Buller Passes hikes, bringing us almost full circle around that special place. I love that we’re getting to know this whole area better and better with each adventure.
The sun played hide ‘n seek with the landscape, occasionally breaking through the heavy cloud cover and spotlighting a ridge on a mountain flank, a spectacular piece of cliff, a peak here or there, or a verdant valley far down below. It was quite beautiful.
Ascending Mount Allen was a highlight of this trip. It was rough & rugged and high, at 2,819m (9,249’). But what I loved most about it was that its flanks had these wonderful, towering rocky ridge spines… making it seem as if we were scrambling along the back of a gigantic dinosaur, going up and over, sometimes around, and often right in between its massive vertebrae. It was SO AWESOME hiking up there, even when the wind gusted powerfully and we had to head down, hiking through driving rain Descending the ridge gives you views of the Nakiska Ski hill. And from way up high on the ridge, I swear it looks like a flat golf course. Ha! That’s mountains for ya! You lose all sense of perspective in such a gigantic landscape.
Here are some pics from our adventure that day.
Our first views on the way up were through a break in the trees. We’d been climbing steadily up for about 4km at this point.
On the way up through the forested fire road, we came across this grouse. It stood its ground, playing chicken with Bella and Seamus. The dogs were very quiet for a few moments, staring it down. It was quite funny!
Leaving the fire road behind, our trail continued through the forest along the edge of the steep slope of the ridge.
Breaking through into a meadow at the top of the treeline, the sense of space was a welcome feeling after being hemmed in by the forest, with no views to speak of, for so long.
This is what it was like. As we crossed the meadow, the sun broke through the cloud cover above, bathing the whole scene is golden light. Look carefully, and you can see Bill in the photo.
Hiking along the steep meadow slope, all I could think about was the Princess Bride (“As…. you… w…i…s…h…”).
After a bit more steep forested terrain, we broke through onto the ridge. From this moment on, we were in the views!
And what spectacular views they were!
The terrain was rocky at times, with giant boulders to hike around or scramble over.
Looking back down on the ridge we’d been hiking… it’s like walking on the top edge of a long, triangular wedge.
Coming up around this cliff band from below, we suddenly noticed this grouse! It was like he was on sentry duty, guarding the pass from invaders below. This high up!That grouse never moved as we climbed up, and then carried on our way. What views he had, eh?
Sometimes the trail tucked down along one side for a bit, sheltering us from the wind. Bill is in the pic below for perspective.
If you look carefully here, you can see Heidi, Pat & the dogs ahead. The trail clung to the side of the ridge here, on a steep ledge between 2 cliff bands.
There were some fun scrambles where we had to climb up the edge of rock bands.
Waiting for us to catch up, Heidi & Patt rest against the cliff and take in the views of the little tarns (alpine ponds) down in the valley below.
The higher we got, the more barren the ridge became. We all put on layers at this point as the wind was picking up. Though it looks smooth in the photo before this one, it is a still a rugged, rocky place up there.
As we kept ascending the shoulder of Mount Allan, we started to come across its spiny vertebrae: these tall (maybe 50 foot tall), towering rocky spires.
Our trail remained well-marked throughout this hike.
The dogs are totally at home in this terrain. With pikas to chase and clear sight lines all along, they had a blast.
This section, as we came around the base of one of the mountain’s vertebrae, was a wee bit steep!
Bill & I emerging through a steep section.
The rocky spine became visible as we kept climbing. This is the view looking back. See how it breaks through the skin of the dinosaur’s back?
Sometimes we walked between the rocky vertebrae. It was such a cool landscape at this point!
Bill & Heidi, two of my intrepid companions.
Another scramble where we, like the dogs, need all 4 paws to climb up.
The sun played hide ‘n seek with the landscape, breaking through the cloud cover and spotlighting the tarns below.
This was one l-o-n-g ridge! This is Pat in the photo. We’d come up along that pointed ridge line that curves off to the right. At this point the wind really picked up. We all had to plant ourselves with one particularly powerful gust. This was our last push to the summit of Mount Allan.
Finally, just as the weather really turned, we got to the summit of Mount Allan. It was rainy, windy & cold up there!
We put on all layers, quickly gobbled up our sandwiches, gave the dogs some treats & water, and then headed on. We needed to fuel up, not only to give our muscles a bit of extra umph for the steep downward sections to come, but to fuel our metabolisms so we could get & stay warm.
Yup, the weather was turning, and we still had a lot of ridge left to go. We were 10km into our hike at this point.
Talk about atmosphere though! We were heading down through those rocky columns, through cloud, wind gusts and misty rain. It was so beautiful!
Our trail took us along some rocky ledges with some fun footwork scrambles.
And then we came to the hike’s iconic spire: The Claw. Rising up like a giant lobster claw you can get a sense of its size if you can find Heidi in this photo.
Heidi climbs part way up the base of the claw. It was made entirely of conglomerate rock… like nature’s cement with tons of small, polished stones embedded in it (making for very crumbly hand holds!).
Yup, we were getting wet now! My hands were so cold, I couldn’t feel my fingers in my gloves. It took Heidi, Bill & Pat to work together to get my rain pants on (with Heidi and I bursting into giggles!). What a sight that must’ve been!
Then the weather cleared a bit and the rain mostly stopped. We still had a lot of ridge left to go. This was an amazingly lengthy ridge walk.
We looked across at those sun spots rather enviously. We were pretty cold at this point!
At the end of the ridge, we hiked down a steep, switchbacked trail. It was very hard on the knees! We could see the Nakiska ski hills below and they looked like flat golf course greens! That’s how skewed our perspective is from up here!
Bill & Pat hiking down… or what we thought was down the shoulder of the ridge.
But nope, there was still more ridge to go!
As we headed down the grassy slope, a rainbow appeared!
Our selfie with the rainbow. We were still pretty bundled up at this point!
The switchbacks were relentless! So hard on the knees! Bill took a quick break when even Bella stopped and laid down for a rest.
Hiking under the rainbow. What a beautiful end to our 8 hour adventure.
Check out more hikes from Canada and our adventures around the world here.